Inside American's Mysterious Disappearance at Sea

Keith Davis' friends believe he didn't go missing from fishing vessel by accident
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2017 3:07 PM CST
Updated Jan 8, 2017 9:17 AM CST
Inside American's Mysterious Disappearance at Sea
Stock image   (Getty Images/dhughes9)

“Keith was not going to compromise his morals for anyone,” Bubba Cook says. “It’s not beyond my imagination that he was told to look the other way and he refused.” Hakai Magazine goes deep on the story of Keith Davis, an American fisheries observer who disappeared off a Panamanian fishing vessel in 2015 while hundreds of miles from land. It's the job of independent fisheries observers to report when fishing vessels break the rules regarding conservation, protected species, and catch sizes. It can get tense between observers and crew, especially on trips when vessels don't catch enough fish to pay their crew. “You’re out there entirely alone with people who see you at best as a nuisance and at worse as a threat," Davis' friend Cook says.

Davis, who "looked halfway between a construction worker and a hippie," was an outspoken critic of the dangers faced by observers at sea, much of which is made up of mostly lawless international waters. His friends now think his warnings were a "sinister foreshadowing" of his fate. Davis was last seen on Sept. 10, 2015, while tuna was loaded onto a Panamanian transshipment vessel he was stationed on. These vessels are especially dangerous for observers because they're often used to hide drugs and illegal shark fins. A search for Davis, launched by the ship four hours after he was last seen and wrapped up by the Panamanian government sometime last year, came up empty-handed. Friends believe that's because his disappearance—in the middle of the day during good weather—was no accident. Read the full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)

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