Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel threatens fishermen in hostile attempt to take over the jellyfish industry of Santa Clara Gulf

Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel threatens fishermen in hostile attempt to take over the jellyfish industry of Santa Clara Gulf

Fishermen near the Santa Clara Gulf in the Mexican state of Sonora have made a living from fishing and selling jellyfish, a product that is in high demand in Asia.

The local industry was expecting a good season this 2023, but fishermen are now too terrified to work because the Sinaloa Cartel is eyeing the multimillion business.

Mexican fishing authorities report that the “cannonball jellyfish” is one of a dozen sea products exported from Mexico to Singapore and Vietnam. The jellyfish sells well and leaves more than $10 million in revenue during a three-month season.

Around this time of the year, fishermen should already be processing tons of jellyfish that will be sent to other major Mexican companies that manage the export side of the business.

But it’s already July and no fisherman has dared to go back into the sea due to an all-powerful threat: They fear heavily armed cartel members who are ensuring that no one can go out to fish.

In an interview, a local fisherman from Guaymas, Sonora, explained that the cartel wants fishermen to work for them exclusively.

The fisherman, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation from the Sinaloa Cartel, added that he and other fishermen are afraid and they are stuck because they are unable to earn a living.

Before cannonball jellyfish is ready for export, it must be dehydrated using tons of salt. This part of the process can only be done with a “salina” or an industrial salt processing company.

In the past, these companies worked with the local fishermen: The companies would buy products from the fishermen and they would process the jellyfish and export it themselves to different companies in Asia, the bulk of which is sent to Singapore or Vietnam.

The process of fishing and dehydrating the jellyfish requires at least 300 men and processes over 250 tons a day, explained Jose Velazquez, the manager of Pesquera Asia, the biggest jellyfish processing company in Sonora.

Sinaloa Cartel eyes the fishing industry for added revenue

One month ago, alleged Sinaloa Cartel members burned several trucks that belonged to two different processing companies. The threat was meant to scare the companies so they would stop buying directly from the fishermen and start dealing with the cartel instead.

The anonymous fisherman said cartel members also threatened the drivers, who were told to stop coming to the coast to buy jellyfish. He added that because of the cartel threats, the whole industry is now at a standstill.

Mexican authorities still haven’t addressed the issue publicly.

The Daily Beast reached out to the Mexican National Guard for a comment, but no answer was forthcoming.

A Sinaloa Cartel operative in Sonora, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said trying to monopolize the fishing industry is “nothing new.”

The operative added that cannonball jellyfish would be a new source of revenue for the Sinaloa Cartel.

“War is very expensive, and when you are at war against other cartels, you need a lot of money.” But drugs are not enough to finance all the arms, cars and men cartels need to wage war with other groups, explained the anonymous operative. (Related: DEA head: Mexican cartels are using FENTANYL to kill Americans in record numbers.)

The Sinaloa Cartel is currently fighting a civil war on the Mexican Pacific Coast: Two different factions, one based in Sonora and the second one located out of Baja, California are “battling for wider control of the criminal organization.”

One side has the sons of infamous drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, collectively known as “Los Chapitos.”

The group has sent thousands of men to seize the region from “Los Russo” (the Russians), an armed faction of the oldest Sinaloa Cartel leader Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

It’s true that the trade in marine wild species between Mexico and Asia is old news.

For the last decade, the Sinaloa Cartel has been exploiting endangered species like the Totoaba fish, an exotic dish served in China. They have also targeted the sea turtle to earn revenue.

However, as the ties between China-based companies and criminal actors like the Sinaloa Cartel have intensified in recent years, the Mexican government has been defunding programs to protect the wildlife in the country, reports Vanda Felbab-Brown, a security analyst and researcher.

Mexican environmental agencies can’t protect jellyfish fishermen

In a recent investigation published at the Brookings Institute, Felbab-Brown wrote that it is alarming that the Lopez Obrador administration “eviscerated the budgetary and personnel resources of Mexican government regulatory environmental agencies.”

Felbab-Brown added: “Unfortunately, as fishermen need them most, the traditionally weak enforcement has become even weaker and is now practically non-existent.”

With the threats from the Sinaloa Cartel, the fishermen can do nothing but wait. They are too scared to get into the sea without the cartel’s clearance, but they are stuck because they also don’t want to get involved with them.

While they are helpless, the fishermen turn to the Mexican government.

According to the anonymous fisherman, they have tried calling the Mexican army, but they did not get an answer. The fishing season ends this July and they are worried that they might lose “a full year of work and revenue.”

Desperate fishermen might be forced to look for other jobs, probably far from the coast, while others might be left with no choice but to work for the cartel, concluded the fisherman.

Visit for updates about drug cartel activity in the U.S.

Watch the video below to know more about the Sinaloa Cartel’s revenue from human trafficking.

This video is from the GalacticStorm channel on

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