Fisherman Busted for Interfering with Investigation

Fisherman Busted for Interfering with Investigation

Santa Barbara – For the past few years, Santa Barbara’s near offshore waters have been a maritime freeway for drug smugglers transporting large quantities of marijuana up the Pacific Coast. Evidence of that illicit trafficking is frequently found on county beaches in the form of abandoned “panga” boats, with the occasional retrieval of baled marijuana by the ton.

At dawn on February 16th, local area urchin fisherman Erik Bjorklund, 59, and his deckhand Josh Brockway came face-to-face with the remnants of what appeared to be a failed smuggling attempt in the form of a half-submerged panga with two new motors he estimated to be worth close to $40,000. Apparently feeling as though he’d stumbled upon a genuine windfall, Bjorklund and his crew promptly tied the panga to their fishing boat and began bailing water out of it. “I hopped in there with a bucket and got all the water out and it started floating up perfect,” Brockway later reported.

It was at that point that Bjorklund used a black marker to write his name on the side of the panga pursuant to his immediate claim of salvage under maritime law. Just as he did so, however, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter arrived overhead to ascertain that there were no individuals in the water or contraband floating nearby.

As Bjorklund was towing his claimed booty into the Santa Barbara harbor, his vessel was approached by Harbor Police boats with Santa Barbara Police and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department personnel on board. According to SBSD Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover, Bjorklund “refused to release the boat to U.S. Coast Guard personnel”, whereupon Sheriff’s deputies assured him that “the boat was considered evidence in a possible drug trafficking case.”

But Bjorklund, perhaps feeling that his salty rights superceded those of law enforcement, refused to comply, earning himself an arrest and citation for interfering with a criminal investigation. Released at the scene, Bjorklund will now have the opportunity to properly educate himself on “the law of salvage”.

Photos: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department

Read more:

NOOZHAWK: Authorities tow panga boat into harbor

CalCoastNews: Fisherman snatches panga

Fisherman Busted for Interfering with Investigation was last modified: February 19th, 2015 by admin
Categories: Santa Barbara

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