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3 Injured In Shootout Between Suspected Poachers, Mexican Marines

Three people were injured in a shootout between suspected poachers and Mexican marines early Thursday morning in the small fishing town of San Felipe, Baja California on Mexico's Sea of Cortez.

Baja California Gov. Francisco Vega confirmed Thursday that three fishermen suspected of illegal poaching were injured in a confrontation with Mexican marines (SEMAR) in San Felipe. One man, identified as 37-year-old Enrique García Sandez, known as "Kiki," was transported to a hospital in Mexicali with serious injuries.

The shooting happened just days after fishermen returned to the water in an area where their nets are banned to protect the endangered vaquita marina porpoise.

But legal fishermen have nothing to do with the current conflict, said Ramón Franco Díaz. He’s president of a local fishermen’s federation in San Felipe.

"Legal fishermen have nothing to do with the disorder that's going on in the Port of San Felipe right now," he said, adding that legal fishermen who are catching "chano" to feed their families should not be conflated with totoaba poachers.

Totoaba are large fish caught with nets that are considered the leading threat to the vaquita marina porpoise, the world's most endangered marine mammal. There are likely only 10 vaquitas left in the Sea of Cortez.

Videos of the confrontation shared on social media Thursday show García Sandez bleeding in a truck bed with marines nearby. Other fishermen are then seen chasing the Mexican marines as they drove away. Protesters gathered outside the marine's station in San Felipe to demand justice for the shooting. Some threw projectiles and set a truck on fire.

The governor said the shooting is being investigated, but asked for calm as the facts of the case are confirmed.

Kendal Blust was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2018 to 2023.