Coast Guard Nabs Three Boats Off Texas Coast With Around 440 pounds of Shark, 2,425 Pounds of Red Snapper

by Alex Falls

The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted three boats on Tuesday that were illegally fishing in federal waters off the coast of South Texas. Fourteen fishermen in total were operating the ships known as “lanchas,” which are long and slender skills equipped with high-powered outboard motors.

The Coast Guard captured the vessels with large quantities of illegally caught snapper and sharks onboard. Multiple Coast Guard crews participated in the investigation and interception of the illegal hunting operation. The Cutter Edgar Culbertson crew led the investigation with additional efforts from the Corpus Christi Sector and Air Station Corpus Christi.

The three Mexican fishing crews were found with “approximately 440 pounds of shark and 2,425 pounds of red snapper along with fishing gear, radios, GPS devices and high flyers,” a USCG press release reads. “Coast Guard crews detained the Mexican fisherman and are scheduled to transfer them to border enforcement agents for processing.”

Tensions are running high as illegal fishing along the Gulf Coast becomes increasingly rampant because Mexican fishermen frequently cross into U.S. water to illegally catch red snapper. Cross-border fishery has become a profitable black market. So much so that the Mexican Cartel have gotten involved in the trade. According to NPR, more and more illegal fishing boats are intercepted every year of the coast of South Texas. In 2020 alone, the Coast Guard seized 37 tons of marine life from Mexican lanchas. They also detained a total of 547 Mexican fisherman.

“They’ll come into U.S. waters, they’ll fish, they’ll grab as much snapper as they can and they’ll go head back south before we can detect them. The average catch they’ll have on board is 1,000 to 3,000 pounds of snapper,” Lt. Cmdr. Dan Ippolitio, commanding officer of the South Padre Island station, said to NPR.

Red Snapper Poaching Putting a Strain on the Local Ecosystem

The issue has become so widespread that earlier this year the U.S. banned all Mexican fishing vessels from entering U.S. ports in the Gulf of Mexico. But the ban has not put an end to illegal snapper fishing in the Gulf. The US Coast Guard continues its efforts to remove snapper poachers from the federally protected waters.

“Working collaboratively with our federal, state and local partners. We continue to detect and deter illegal fishing occurring in the U. S. Exclusive Economic Zone,” Capt. Kristi Luttrell, chief of response for Coast Guard District 8, said in the USCG press release. “Successfully protecting our limited marine resources requires a whole-of-government approach, and these successful cases illustrate our commitment to that effort.”

The over-fishing of red snapper is throwing the entire ecosystem out of balance. Coast Guard personnel and scientists alike regularly encounter nets and trotlines that can stretch out to 3 miles long attached to floating buoys. Both items are illegal to use in the Gulf because they kill marine life indiscriminately.

“We find red snapper, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Erin Welch. “It’s incredibly physically taxing on the crew. We have to utilize everybody that’s on board to be able to pull this up.”