In a Saturday story from Breitbart Texas, you read about a tough new bill being pushed by the Texas congressional delegation to combat illegal fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. The need for that law was proven again on Friday, as not one, but two Mexican Lanchas were seized in US waters for poaching with illegal long lines and gill nets.
The first boat was spotted by a Coast Guard MH-65 Dauphin helicopter at 11:00 A.M., roughly 6 miles into US waters, and 26 miles out from shore. When a 33-foot law enforcement boat from the South Padre Island station arrived, they arrested three Mexican nationals, seizing the boat and one “long-line” fishing lure which measured 500 yards in length.
One of the men on the crew told the Coast Guard that he had been picked up “16-18” other times for fishing in US waters.
The boat was then towed back to South Padre Island, where the crew was turned over to the Border Patrol for processing and return to Mexico.
A few hours later, another Lancha was spotted about 35 miles offshore, more than 40 miles north of the border. The boat was disabled and drifting. When a rescue swimmer was lowered by helicopter, he discovered three crew members aboard.
A second 33 foot Law Enforcement boat arrived on the scene, arrested the crew, and towed the boat back to South Padre Island.
“This illegal fishing is having a huge impact on the snapper and shark populations,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Andrew Kendrick told Breitbart Texas. “The gill nets used are killing indiscriminately, every kind of fish, turtle and dolphins. We’ve seized boats with hundreds of red snapper, when a U.S. fisherman is limited to two or three a day. It’s devastating, someone even called it a shark massacre.”
The Coast Guard has been doing its best to keep track of these illegal fishing boats. Since October 1st of last year, they have seized 176 boats, plus almost 40 miles’ worth of long lines and gill nets.
These latest interdictions are part of an ongoing operation known as Operation Sea Serpent, which increases coordination between the Mexican Navy and U.S. law enforcement agencies for maritime security patrols and enforcement on both sides of the border.
“Commercial vessels from Mexico continue to conduct illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, venturing further north from the border to seek a larger and more lucrative catch,” said Cmdr. Daniel Deptula, the response officer at Sector Corpus Christi. “This activity exploits fish species most sought after by legitimate U.S. commercial and recreational fisherman alike.”
If you witness suspicious or illegal fishing in state waters (out to 9 miles offshore), please contact Texas Parks and Wildlife “Operation Game Thief” at 1-800-792-GAME (4263).
For all suspicious or illegal fishing occurring in federal waters (out to 200 miles offshore), please contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 361-939-6393.
Rob Milford is a news contributor for Breitbart Texas. Follow him on Facebook.