Tragedy on the High Seas…

When a friend goes missing at sea under mysterious circumstances, there is no closure.

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I still can’t believe that he’s gone. I feel like any moment he could ring me up or Skype me. Or I’d find a letter from him in the mail.

He’s still all around me. The curry that I made the other night was curry he brought me from Nepal. The Post Office box that he secured in St. Petersburg that I transferred over to me, still manages to be in his name. The letters he wrote, songs he sang, the cards he made me. The trivet from Peru. His smile, his laugh, his great big belly laugh. How I miss you so Keith.
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It’s been 5 months since my friend Keith Davis went missing. Keith was a fisheries observer. He collected scientific data onboard various fishing vessels to better help manage the fisheries and keep them sustainable. Keith risked his life every day on this job. For 16 years. And one day the risk became too great. He went missing on an observer trip under mysterious circumstances. They never found the body.

Keith was on an assignment through the IATTC (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission), a commission formed based on an international agreement between countries in the Pacific Ocean with the intention of managing tuna in tropical waters. Keith was the sole observer onboard. The vessel was a transshipment vessel, meaning it was the mother ship onto which the smaller fishing vessels would unload their tuna catch, get paid for their fish, and keep on fishing. The transshipment vessels spent 2-3 months at sea.

 

MV Victoria No 168

Keith was already at sea for 1 month before he went missing. He left port on August 7, 2015, and the last time he was said to have been seen was on September 10, 2016. The vessel was Panamanian flagged, Japanese owned, fishing off Peruvian waters and carrying Chinese crew. No country wanted to take responsibility for an American observer gone missing.

How does an American go missing under mysterious circumstances and no evidence can be found???

We are living in the 21st century. How does this happen?

Keith was a dear friend, for 15 years. We worked as observers at the same time in Hawaii, meeting each other in 2001. Keith was a colleague and collaborator. We worked on the OPWG (Observer Professionallism Working Group) together for 2-3 years and collaborated on a book project for 7 years called “Eyes on the Seas, A Look into the Observer Profession through Stories and Other Creative Works.” We are hoping to publish this book by August of this year.

Final Manuscript with artwork

After hearing about his disappearance, I became obsessed with playing detective and figuring out what happened to Keith Davis.

I read all the posts, did extensive research, interviewed with the U.S. Coast Guard, interviewed with journalists, and went on a mission to publish the book that Keith worked so tirelessly on since 2007.

I kept getting the message from Keith to “be my voice”. I along with many others are going to be your voice Keith, don’t you worry about that.

Today I got a call from a reporter in California who is going to be doing an extensive report on Keith Davis and his story. I was so touched to know that someone was still interested in his story and wants to get to the bottom of his disappearance. I am so happy to have been blessed with another chance to tell someone what I know and share my research. Maybe he will be able to put together the missing pieces.

Keith was a dreamer. His main goal was “world peace.” If you asked him what he wanted most in life, he would answer you very straightforwardly, “Anik, I want world peace.”

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Keith had so many cases and passions that he was dedicated to; observer safety being one of the top priorities.

In an email dated August 20, 2014, he wrote to me with the heading “Murder on the High Seas – Video; careful, very graphic”. In his email he forwarded me the video of a horrendous shooting of people in the water on the high seas, and he described his reaction to it. “This sort of stuff is tough to look at, and I don’t blame people for not watching it (I have no need to see it again…) – but, in respect to the murdered people and their families, it may be a catalyst… to wake some people up – especially if observers are starting to take on enforcement-type roles in some programs. Why do humans need tragic events in order to start towards real action sometimes, I don’t know? But it seems that we sometimes do.”

It’s almost as if Keith was foreshadowing here.

Keith’s other passions were the work he did in Nepal, his music, traveling with his dad, his band in Arizona, his choir in the White Mountains, his family in Massachusetts, his friends around the world, adventure (here he is paddle boarding in Kauai in 2014), the OPWG, the APO, and the “Eyes on the Seas” book…just to name a few.

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There was a search conducted for his body for 3 days by neighboring vessels. Why didn’t the U.S. Coast Guard come out and search???

The transshipment vessel was called back to port in Panama (which took 10 days to arrive there) and a search of the vessel was conducted. Keith’s computer, journals, and mandolin were found. The crew of the Victoria No. 168 were interviewed and no foul play was suspected from the vessel.

But what about the fishing vessel that was unloading catch at the time Keith was reported missing at 2:10 p.m. on September 10, 2015?? The only one questioned from that vessel was the captain and it was one week later!!!

New evidence has just emerged that the F/V Chung Kuo No. 818, the fishing vessel offloading catch to the M/V Victoria No. 168 on September 10 had made a port call in Peru on September 7, just prior to meeting up at sea with the M/V Victoria No. 168, which is strange for a fishing vessel to go to port since the whole purpose of transshipment operations is to allow fishing vessels to not have to bare the expense and inconvenience of a port call.

Too much fishiness going on if you ask me…

Keith and other transshipment observers only way to communicate a distress signal was through the captain of the vessel. But what if the Captain and observer were in a disagreement? What if there was foul play involved with the Captain or crew of that vessel? Or he was in on some kind of secret?

Keith Davis

Keith was not one to just slip and fall into the water. Safety was his #1 concern. The story doesn’t add up. And nobody is willing to take any blame. Corruption on the high seas must stop. Observers lives are being taken.

In November 2015, the search for Keith and his investigation were declared over and the M/V Victoria No. 168 was allowed to go fishing again. This time with an observer that we both are friends with. Another guy from our 2001 Hawaii crew! How ironic!

This time the observer was equipped with a personal emergency indicating device that he can administer without the Captain’s permission. I spoke to this observer when he returned to port and he said no foul play occurred while he was on board and he couldn’t even go there mentally to think how things when down with Keith Davis.

Keith, my friend, you will never be forgotten. Your legacy will always live on…and we will continue to search for answers…

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In an effort to carry on Keith’s wishes to enhance observer safety and educate the world about the observer profession, a large group of people have donated to a GoFundMe campaign to fund the publication and marketing of the “Eyes on the Seas” book. So far over 75 people have donated over $4000 to get this important work out into the world. This is such a wonderful cause and such a great way to give back to the observer profession and to honor Keith’s life. Keith would be so proud!

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6 thoughts on “Tragedy on the High Seas…”

  1. Anik, this is a tragic story about your friend, Kieth. I’m sorry for your loss. After reading this blog post, I’m outraged that more hasn’t been done to bring closure to this matter for Kieth’s family and friends. I sincerely hope that his family has at least been able to hold the vessel owner liable Kieth’s disappearance. Although I don’t personally handle traditional maritime legal issues such as this, I work very closely with some of the best maritime attorneys in the country, and I would be happy to help Kieth’s family connect with someone who will work to get them the justice that they deserve. If there is any way that I can help, please don’t hesitate to call on me.

    1. Thank you Mike for your kind words and for your condolences. Kieth’s family is working with a maritime attorney located in Boston. They are also working with an investigative reporter in California. I’m not sure if there will be resolution or anyone held accountable, but we are still praying and working towards some kind of closure. Thanks for wanting to be of help. I will keep it in mind if there is further assistance needed. Appreciate it Mike.

  2. Thanks to you and Bubba for keeping the story alive and the threat that still exists real. I coordinated observer programs in Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The danger is real and more needs to be done to keep lives safe. Look forward to discussing this more at the Observer Conference in San Diego.
    Regards
    Craig Heberer
    Deputy Director
    Indo-Pacific Tuna Program
    the Nature Conservancy

    1. Hi Craig, it’s good to hear from you. Anything we can do to keep Keith’s story alive and keep fighting for better protections for observers at sea, we will do. We are coordinating a Keith Davis Memorial Fund and all proceeds from the “Eyes on the Seas” book will go into that fund, so that we can fund observer projects near and dear to Keith’s heart, such as observer safety issues. Would love to have you on the board for that group with all of your experience in coordinating observer programs around the world. I’m hoping to be at the Observer Conference in San Diego. If not, I’ll send you an email about it. Take care, Anik

  3. What a beautiful piece. I am Keith’s Cousin. Keith is very dear to me as he is to others (Family, friends and co-workers). Such a beautiful creature in the world he loved. An inspiring being, a world traveler, a music man, a man who loved all walks of life. 6 months it has been since his disappearance and coping with his loss still and probably will always be so heartfelt. I miss his body and soul, his laugh, his smile, his hugs. Losing someone is one thing, it is entirely another matter when there is no body found. Where do we find the closure? It will always be a mystery … what happen to my cousin. I do feel his presence, all around, the land, the sea, the air. Thank you for caring. My deepest regards … Author LadyGray (Robyn R. Gray)

    1. Thank you Robyn for reading my blogpost. I miss Keith every day. He is a beautiful soul and will forever be around us. I also feel his presence all around in the air, the sea, the land.

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