TEGUCIGALPA – The captain of a Honduran fishing boat was killed by the Jamaican navy and at least two crewmen were wounded in the incident in the Caribbean, Honduran navy chief Rear Adm. Juan Pablo Rodriguez said.
The incident occurred Friday night in Jamaican waters, the admiral said.
“Excessive force” was used against the fishermen and the Foreign Ministry should file “the highest level protest” with the Jamaican government, Rodriguez told Tegucigalpa’s HRN radio station.
“A Honduran-flagged fishing boat was attacked by coast guardsmen from Jamaica because they were fishing illegally in Jamaica’s waters,” the admiral said.
The incident happened “in a very remote place, in the north, about 350 nautical miles from the coast of Honduras, where our fishermen don’t usually fish,” Rodriguez said.
The Honduran vessel “was hailed by radio, ignored the call from the coast guard and fled,” prompting the Jamaican patrol boat to “fire on the fishing boat,” the admiral said.
“We consider it an excessive use of force if the crime was illegal fishing,” Rodriguez said, adding that officials were trying to determine whether the boat was involved in other criminal activities, such as drug or arms trafficking.
The fishing boat is sailing for Puerto Lempira, a port in Gracias a Dios province, with the body of the dead captain and the two wounded fishermen aboard, the navy chief said.
Conflicting figures about the number of wounded in the incident were provided by Honduran officials.
Five crewmen were wounded by the Jamaican coast guard, Congressman Maylo Wood, who represents Gracias a Dios, told Radio America.
The incident occurred in “Honduran waters” north of the 15th parallel, Wood said.
The fisherman killed by the Jamaican coast guard was Harley Benles, who was from Cauquira, a town in Gracias a Dios, the congressman said.
The wounded fishermen were taken to Jamaica for treatment, Wood said.
The incident occurred “in our waters, the other ship appeared and opened fire ... killing the captain and leaving five crewmen wounded. From what I’ve been told, it was Jamaican coast guardsmen who boarded” the fishing boat, Wood said, without identifying his sources.
“I understand that the wounded people were put on the (patrol) boat by the Jamaicans and taken to Jamaica,” Wood said.
Honduras and Jamaica have not agreed on the boundaries of their Caribbean waters, leading to frequent incidents over illegal fishing.