Surinamese Fishermen Missing After Pirate Attack
The Suriname's Coast Guard reported Monday that 16 fishermen have gone missing after their boats were attacked by pirates off the coast of Suriname, late Friday night.
All 16 fishermen are suspected to be dead.
The attack took place in area known by fisherman as Double Highbush. According to spokesman Commander Jerry Slijngard, the pirates raided the fishing boat, beating the fisherman before forcing the 20 man crew to jump overboard.
Four fishermen managed to escape by swimming ashore, but three of the four were immediately hospitalized due to dehydration and acute wounds.
The survivors reported that the assailants beat them with machetes before forcing them to jump overboard. Some fisherman even had batteries tied to their legs when they jumped into the ocean.
Since the attack, the Coast Guard as well as members of the Fisheries Collective Association, and police vessels have been anxiously searching for the missing fishermen.
“We are still searching the area with family members of the fishermen, hoping for a miracle,” said Mark Lall, President of the Fisheries Collective Association.
“People are afraid. It is not the first time that so many boats have been attacked in one go, but I have the impression that most of the deaths will now be regretted at once,” Lall noted.
Local media outlet, Kaieteur News reported that the captain of one of the fishing boats has identified the four pirates as Guyanese nationals.
The identification comes as they acknowledge both the accents of the attackers as being Guyanese, as well as the attackers apparently being known to the fishermen.
On May 2, 2018, Surinamese authorities confirmed a corpse had washed up upon the banks of Suriname. The corpse was originally discovered by a private airplane company who had taken up searching for the missing fishermen.
“It is almost certain that it is one of the missing because the body was discovered near the place where the boats were attacked,” said Cmdr. Slijngard.
While the motive of the brutal attack remains unknown, some speculate that the most recent attack resulted from a turf war between Guyanese fishermen.
Two months prior to the most recent attack, Mark Skeete a captain of a Surinamese Vessel was found dead on his boat, killed by pirates. His crew members were found alive but were also physically attacked.
Kaieteur News asserts that the “associates of Skeete vowed to retaliate in revenge. And a prize was placed on the head of the individuals who allegedly had ordered his killing.”
According to Cmdr. Slijngard, the attacks on Friday have all the marks of a contract killing. He noticed that the attackers did not come to rob the fishermen of their catch or other valuables.
To deter future attacks, Cmdr. Slijngard called for the rapid rollout of Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) technology in Suriname. VMS is a protocol similar to AIS, but designed specifically for fisheries enforcement. The VMS includes an emergency “panic button” which allows boats to send out a distress signal which includes the boats location.
Small-scale piracy has long been a problem on the undeveloped coast of Suriname and Guyana, nevertheless, this level of violence is rare. “In the past, they used to get away with the catch or with the boat’s engine,” Lall said. “But now human lives don’t count.”