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GETTING CAUGHT IN TUNA PENS
n Finding yourself caught in a fish net or pen can be expensive anywhere. The Mexican
Navy freed Dan Richter’s trapped boat, but the cost for being freed by a private towing
company is considered salvage and can cost several thousand dollars. Add to that the
cost to repair the net as well as your boat and the final tab for your error could be huge.
These costs are normally covered by your BoatU.S. insurance policy.
n Yet another cost that apparently has been levied by Mexican authorities in the past:
traumatizing the tuna. Todd Schwede, a marine surveyor in San Diego, says the pen
owner’s claim is that the tuna are traumatized and as a result won’t sell as well on the
n Schwede says he’s heard of other claims for traumatizing tuna that were as high as
$80,000. Unlike damage repair costs, fines are not covered by an insurance policy.
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Virginia. BoatU.S. Vessel Assist has a very
tall VHF tower, so Walker had been relaying
the VHF exchanges between Dan and the
Coast Guard. As soon as he heard Dan and
his boat were going to Ensenada, he checked
the computer and saw that Dan was insured
with BoatU.S. Later that same night, at
about 3 a.m. EST, Ventura opened a claim
for Dan and forwarded it to the BoatU.S.
Claims Department. The following morning, Kerry McCook, a claims adjuster for
BoatU.S., called an attorney in San Diego,
James Alcantara (the aforementioned “Jim”),
and asked him to do whatever he could to
help Richter. Jim called a colleague in San
Diego, Carla Ishno, an attorney licensed in
both the United States and Mexico. Ishno
called the director of tourism in Ensenada,
who happened to be her uncle Oscar!
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Dan wasn’t feeling like a fun-loving tourist.
Still, he appreciated Oscar’s visit and was
willing to go along with a perfect stranger
“just to get out of there.” Oscar took Dan
to the port master who, it turns out, had
already heard from the owner of the tuna
pens. Oscar and the port master started talk-
ing back and forth in Spanish. Oscar then
turned to Dan and said, “I don’t know what
your son said to those guys, but [the man
who owns the tuna pen] wants to make a
deal: If you won’t press charges against him,
he won’t press charges against you. Just sign
Dan was surprised, but wouldn’t sign
anything without talking to Jim, his new law-
yer. Oscar read the paper and then used his
cellphone to read it to Jim. The port master
looked it over. Jim said they were all shocked
that the owner of the tuna pen had offered
to make a deal that didn’t involve Dan pay-
ing him huge sums of money. Finally, with
everybody’s blessing, Dan signed the paper
and was told by the port master that he was
free to leave.
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Dan Richter’s advice on what he would have
done differently is simple: Don’t fish behind
the Coronado Islands at night. Carry a high-intensity searchlight to scan waters that
are used extensively for commercial fishing.
Whenever you venture into foreign waters,
bring your passport, even just for an overnight. He adds that it helps to have someone
aboard who speaks the language; just about
everyone who was interviewed for this story
credits Brian for helping to get his father
released without having to pay a huge fine.
Bob Adriance is editor of Seaworthy, the
damage-avoidance Newsletter produced by the
BoatU.S. Marine Insurance division.