Searching for Keith
July 10, 2019 8:59 AM   Subscribe

A detective’s quest reveals how one idealistic fisheries observer may have collided with criminals and desperate migrants—and paid for it with his life. (cw: human trafficking, murder, rape)

In the years before he went missing, the observer had become increasingly preoccupied with the lawlessness he saw on the world’s oceans—and the dangers encountered by observers, who sometimes face hostility from captains and crews. He tried repeatedly to convince fisheries managers to pay attention and implement changes that would strengthen observer safety, with little success. Almost no one who knew Davis and understands the ruthlessness observers sometimes face believes his disappearance was an accident.


posted by poffin boffin (3 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
My life is so easy and sheltered. I am thankful.
posted by clawsoon at 12:13 PM on July 10, 2019

This is a beautiful article, but it ends exactly as expected. One wonders at people, in these days, who persist in the belief that a lone individual with no government or law-enforcement connections can solve an international case and bring a perpetrator to justice. The common adventure-story narrative has something like this, a crime against an individual in a remote place, triggering events that bring down the proud oppressors, but in fact that never actually happens. The proud oppressors are brought down by conflict with other proud oppressors.
posted by Seaweed Shark at 1:39 PM on July 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I didn't inspect the fishing industry, but I spent a good chunk of my career working far afield in 3rd world contexts that were very often unstable nation-states (places like Somalia, Chad, Niger, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.). And my job was conducting Supply Chain assessments and helping to identify where funds were being siphoned off via the nearly endless forms of graft that thrive like parasites on global supply chains as they pass through lawless territories and the international waters between them.

I lost team members under suspect conditions. People who were responsible for chasing down corruption and putting a stop to it. My teams were not wildly popular in our organization or with those outside our organization that were facilitating things like vendor kickbacks, off-the-books payments, on-the-books accounting gymnastics, you name it.

I think at the time I was so, so focused on doing a net "good" in our world, helping to ensure that more donor dollars reached the worst-off beneficiaries in the most horrific conditions. So focused that I didn't always stop to consider my personal safety in perspective of the much larger beast I was confronting. I had hostile environment awareness training, I was basically well prepared to be kidnapped at any time (and how to best try to avoid it). I had to shelter in place and emergency evac on multiple occasions. It strains the consciousness, always having an eye over one shoulder, always making sure you're not being followed when you're driving. More than once I was at the wrong end of the barrel of a gun, but somehow I came out unscathed, at least physically.

I got sick, very sick, like needed to be hospitalized sick, many times. Sometimes in countries where the doctor and I didn't speak the same language. I probably dodged more medical bullets than real ones.

And of course, I did my own fair share of self-medicating. I'm not saying Davis did that, like the people in the story said, but I would have a lot of compassion for him if he did, whether or not it contributed to his disappearance. The world is hard when everyone is pretending to tolerate you all day and you know they'd rather you just weren't there, and the only safe place you have is a small room to hunker in. Those walls close in fast.

I've been at sea, and I can contemplate the vastness and utter remoteness that one feels on a ship offshore. But I absolutely can not imagine being as alone and on the margin that Davis' work must have been. Nobody wants to die, but maybe in some small way his end was an end to a suffering of sorts.

Fuck those companies, the corrupt people on those ships, and the people responsible for investigating his disappearance. They should all be committed to the deep for what they're doing or turning a blind eye to.

I hope Davis' family and friends can somehow find some solace.

posted by allkindsoftime at 9:26 AM on July 11, 2019 [10 favorites]

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