Disappearance of Fisheries Observer from Vessel in the Pacific Ocean
Forest & Bird shares with our Birdlife partners their concern for Keith Davis, an independent fisheries observer, who went missing from a Panamanian-flagged vessel off the coast of Peru around 10 September. Keith Davis worked for MRAG.
Keith was last seen aboard the Victoria No. 168 – a transhipment vessel that receives catches from fishing vessels – while taking it ashore for processing and sale. The ship had just finished trans-shipping fish from a Taiwanese vessel, when Keith could not be found to sign off the transhipment, which is one of the duties of an observer. A search on the vessel could not find Keith, and then the Peruvian, Ecuadorian and US Coast Guards were notified and they assisted in a search operation. This was concluded 72 hours after Keith was reported missing. The Victoria No.168 was ordered into port in Panama, and is undergoing inspection by investigators.
Fisheries observers like Keith play a critical role in protecting fish stocks and helping NGOs and scientists assess the “collateral damage” of fishing – including non-target bycatch of seabirds, turtles and marine mammals. They observe the fishing operation and collect data on the catch and how fishing is conducted. Their role can bring them into conflict with crew and skippers, sometimes resulting in harassment or threats. Harassment can be difficult to document and resolve that they are at sea for a long period of time without the support from fellow observers.
Birdlife International’s policy is to advocate for seabird conservation measures in the tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations. This requires fisheries observers to ensure that measures are implemented and effective.
Forest & Bird would like to offer our sympathies to the family of Keith Davis.