What Happened to Keith Davis and Gerlie Alpajora?

Directed by Ali Tabrizi, Netflix’s ‘Seaspiracy’ is a documentary film that provides us with a look into how a myriad of misinformation and secrets are currently the most dangerous threats to the oceans and the wildlife within. By highlighting everything from hunting to commercial fishing to slavery to other illegal activities, we get a comprehensive look into the war being waged on our water bodies. For this, Ali even tells us a bit about Keith Davis’ disappearance and Gerlie Alpajora’s murder. So now, if you’re curious to know more about their respective cases, we’ve got you covered.

What Happened to Keith Davis?

By all accounts, 41-year-old Keith Davis was a kind man who could charm almost anyone with his boyish smile, music skills, and nature-loving personality. Having grown up fishing in the Boston Harbor with his father, with whom he later moved to Arizona, Keith had fallen in love with the ocean at a very young age. Therefore, after he graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, with an emphasis in Marine Biology, he landed a job as a fisheries observer. Apart from helping the authorities and the ships manage their fish intake, Keith’s primary role was to scan the seas for illegal fishing.

Image Credit: High Seas Detective / GoFundMe

On September 10, 2015, while on MV Victoria No. 168, a cargo ship that he had boarded in Vacamonte, Panama, on August 5, Keith Davis reported nothing out of the ordinary to his superiors. However, just hours later, 10 minutes after he was last seen alive, at around 3 p.m., the vessel’s chief officer realized that their observer was no longer on board. At that time, they were surrounded by deep waters approximately 500 miles from Lima, Peru.

With the help of 16 other ships, a vast patch of the sea was searched. But with no sign of Keith anywhere, any efforts to find him were called off after 72 hours. Keith or his remains have never been recovered. We should mention that a little over a year before this incident transpired, Keith had started confiding in his friends about his rising fears over the lack of regulation enforcement in the ocean, detailing how it was dangerous for all crew members. So, when the authorities received a tip indicating that his disappearance might be suspicious – that he might have been thrown overboard on purpose – they tried to look into it.

But as many nationalities were involved, the U.S. coast guard could not conduct an independent investigation. Moreover, it was challenging to get details from the crew as many did not speak English or even Spanish. In 2019, a GoFundMe page to support a field investigation into Keith’s mysterious disappearance was created, and it is still accepting donations.

How Did Gerlie Alpajora Die?

At 33-years-old, Gerlie Menchie Alpajora, a mother of two young boys, worked as the Secretary of the Sagñay Tuna Fishers Association (STFA). Residing in Camarines Sur, Philippines, she had managed to make a good life for herself and her family. However, it sometimes got overshadowed by the death threats she received for her open advocacy, information campaigns, and reporting of illegal activities and fisheries. Thus, for some, it, unfortunately, came as no surprise when Gerlie, who was sleeping next to her sons, was shot to death on the night of July 29, 2015.

According to police documents, this transpired just after one of Gerlie’s reports led to the arrest of several people engaging in illicit activities. One individual was charged and arrested for her slaying, but apparently, he was let go due to a lack of evidence and court delays. Thus, the anti-illegal fishing advocate’s murder remains unsolved to this day. In the aftermath of it all, though, the police, activists, and international organizations (non-government) collaborated to continue the work Gerlie was doing, resulting in an almost 300% increase in the apprehension of fishing criminals in the area.

Read More: Who is Dr. Sylvia Earle of Seaspiracy?