Location: El Canyon and southwest San Benedicto wall, Socorro/Revillagigedos, Mexico
Comments: The 4 islands that comprise the Revillagigedo Archipelago – San Benedicto, Socorro, Roca Partida and Clarion – are a protected Biosphere Reserve that is aggressively and proactively guarded and patrolled by Mexican navy vessels. All non-navy vessels must have a park permit to enter the Biosphere Reserve and the permits are very sought after and difficult to obtain. It is almost impossible for a dive boat to get a commercial permit and quite impossible for any other kind of commercial vessel to obtain a permit. Boardings by navy inspection teams armed with M16s are commonplace. Our experience has been that the navy will dispatch a fast patrol boat if or when we discover any fishing boats illegally operating in the Reserve.
So it was a great surprise and very upsetting to find an 800-metre fishing net draped across the southwest San Benedicto wall. Some bloody fishermen must have snuck in here, knowing that the best fishing is, of course, in Biosphere Reserve. Our divers discovered the carcasses of a couple of hammerhead sharks, a dead dolphin, a turtle and most disturbing of all – a barely alive silky shark caught up in the net and still twitching and spasming. One of our guests asked me what the green stuff was that was streaming out of the silky shark’s mouth – which was of course blood which appears to be green rather than red underwater. Some divers tried to free the shark but to no avail.
For those who remember my friend Lumpy – our highly anthropomorphized and very friendly leather bass with the distended broken jaw – he always used to be on hand to meet our divers as we swam up to the cleaning station at the dive site El Canyon. Well we didn’t see hide nor hair of poor old Lumpy today on any of our 4 dives at El Canyon and can only think the worst – that he got scooped up in that d*mn net.
The good news on this fishing net mess is that the Mexican navy does appear determined to police and protect Socorro/Revillagigedos as best they can and that the population of critters out here is quite robust.
Weather: Overcast. Wind from the northwest at 20 knots. 6ft sea with bigger lumps by late afternoon but calm at El Canyon and the Aquarium. Temperature mid 80’s.
Water: Visibility 100 feet plus, water temperature a surprisingly chilly 75˚F