Two California tuna boats, including the Karen Christie of San Diego, are in custody in La Paz, Mexico, after the Mexican Navy seized them Saturday and accused them of violating Mexico's territorial waters.
But a spokesman for the Western Fish Boat Owners Assn. in San Diego said Monday that no violations of international fishing laws were involved and that no charges have been brought against either boat.
Bob Pringle, the San Diego owner of the Karen Christie, said he was in touch with Steve Anderson, the boat's skipper.
"They're getting treated very well," Pringle said. "There are guards on the boat, but they're just doing their job. There's no hostility or anything. Hopefully, we'll get the boat out of there in the next two or three days."
Both the Karen Christie and the Laurie Anne, a purse seiner out of San Pedro, were anchored inside the 12-mile limit of Mexican territorial waters. They were transferring diesel fuel about 70 miles north of the tip of the Baja Peninsula when they were seized, Bill Perkins, head of the boat owners association, said.
Perkins said the Karen Christie, which is 100 feet long, had run low on fuel and radioed the Laurie Anne to bring it 3,000 gallons. Unlike the larger purse seiners, bait boats like the Karen Christie use fishing poles and live bait to catch tuna. "They were not fishing," Perkins said. "There were no fish aboard the Laurie Anne. It doesn't appear to be a fisheries violation."
Instead, the boats apparently failed to notify Mexican authorities that they were entering Mexican waters. As of Monday, the Mexican government had cited neither boat with a specific violation, Perkins said.
The fishing boats did not transfer the fuel in international waters because of storm conditions. "The weather was too rough," Perkins said. The boats anchored, instead, where the waters were more protected.
According to Perkins, the Karen Christie was in contact with a U.S. Coast Guard vessel in the vicinity when the fishing boat was about 20 miles from Mexico. Perkins said that the Coast Guard vessel notified the Mexican Navy that the U.S. fishing boats were entering Mexican territorial waters.
However, on Monday, Coast Guard authorities in San Diego could not confirm that a Coast Guard ship was in the area.
The Karen Christie normally carries a crew of 12 to 14, Pringle said. The captain and the engineer are the only U.S. citizens on the boat. Anderson, the skipper, and Wayne Johnston, the engineer, both live in San Diego. The remaining crew members are Mexican fishermen.