The Sea Shepherd vessel named for benefactor John Paul DeJoria was recently attacked by poachers while patrolling a protected marine zone off Panama’s Pacific coast. The following is Dive Officer Ben Harris’s first-hand account of what happened on June 28, 2017.
The John Paul Dejoria had been transiting through and around Coiba National Park and its special zone of marine protection, monitoring and documenting fishing inside its borders. Despite being declared a UNESCO world heritage site for more than 10 years, this is a place where not only sport fishing is allowed but also longline fishing for tuna and whatever else gets snagged on the indiscriminate hooks laid out mile after mile.
Around 3 pm, we approached an area we could see from miles away was being heavily fished. Arriving on the scene of carnage, we found five fishing boats dragging baited longlines and chumming the water around them. It was a frenzy, a massacre, with lines being pulled everywhere, tunas thrashing to break free and dolphins fleeing the scene. Tunas and marlins were being dragged over the sides and beaten to death while fresh lines were hurled over the side for more “artesanal” fishing.