The owners of two California tuna boats, seized for violating Mexican territorial waters, have rejected demands by Mexican authorities that they pay fines and surrender their fish and fishing equipment, U.S. representatives said Monday.
The purse seiner Laurie Anne of San Pedro and the San Diego-based bait boat Karen Kristie have been anchored under armed guard in La Paz since Feb. 24, when they were seized while exchanging fuel inside Mexico's 12-mile territorial limit.
The Mexican government is claiming a "fisheries related" violation even though neither boat was fishing in Mexican waters, said Bill Perkins, general manager of the Western Fish Boat Owners Assn. in San Diego. The fisheries violation charge was cited because the boats were commercial fishing boats and were engaged in transferring fuel, according to Ike Iacona, general manager of the Fishermen's Co-op in San Pedro.
On Monday, Capt. Anton Stanojevich, who is also an owner of the Laurie Anne, refused orders by Mexican authorities to put his ship's net on the beach. The Laurie Anne last week was assessed a fine of $6,345. The Karen Kristie's fine was $1,800 and her master was ordered to surrender its 70-ton catch of fish as well as its bait nets and other fishing gear, with an overall value of about $70,000, according to Perkins.
Iacona estimated that the cost of replacing the net of the Laurie Anne, which has no fish in its hold, would be $200,000.
According to Perkins, the boats sought sheltered waters during rough seas to transfer fuel from the Laurie Anne to the Karen Kristie. The Karen Kristie was returning to San Diego. The San Pedro boat was on its way out to the fishing grounds and had not yet begun to fish, Perkins said.
The two boats were apprehended by the Mexican navy while anchored about 70 miles north of the tip of the Baja California Peninsula.