Early Thursday morning (December 29), U.S. Coast Guard officials spotted what appeared to be five lanchas off the coast of Corpus Christi, Texas. As the USCG explained, lanchas are fishing boats “used by Mexican fishermen that are approximately 20-30 feet long with a slender profile, have one outboard motor, and are capable of traveling at speeds exceeding 30 mph.”
Unfortunately, these vessels are often used to transport illegal narcotics to the U.S., as well as to fish illegally in the States’ Exclusive Economic Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
With the help of local watchstanders and air crews, Coast Guard Station South Padre Island boat crews and the Coast Guard Cutter Jacob Poroo crew successfully located and stopped five of these ships in federal waters. As suspected, all five were engaged in illegal fishing.
#USCG Station South Padre Island crews & the CGC Jacob Poroo crew, worked w/ #CG Sector Corpus Christi watchstanders and CG Air Station Corpus Christi crews, to stop five #lanchas with 22 Mexican fishermen engaged in illegal fishing.— USCG Heartland (@USCGHeartland) December 31, 2022
More here: https://t.co/waJXmIit7U pic.twitter.com/4Pb1769zd5
On these illegal fishing boats were 22 fishermen, three sharks, and 590 pounds of red snapper. The men also had fishing gear, radios, GPS devices, and high flyers in their possession. Coast Guard officials seized all equipment and fish from the vessel. Following the seizure, USCG arrested the men on board and transferred them to border enforcement agents.
In the wake of the successful mission, Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Ortega, search and rescue coordinator at Corpus Christi USCG gave a statement regarding their continued efforts. “Through our great collective efforts, we continue to detect and deter illegal fishing occurring in southern Texas waters,” Ortega said. “Our crews are always ready to protect U.S. waters from foreign intrusion and enforce domestic living marine resource laws.”
Coast Guard Seizes 40 Sharks From Illegal Fishermen
Though a large discovery for the US Coast Guard, the recent discovery of 600 pounds of illegal fish aboard a group of lanchas was far from the first of its kind. In the summer of 2022, the USCG Sector Corpus Christi command center watchstanders received notice of a lancha boat crew. According to reports, the crew was illegally fishing in federal waters off southern Texas.
Launching an investigation, Coast Guard officials tracked the lancha crew about seven miles north of the Maritime Boundary Line. And again, their suspicions were correct.
On the ship, the USCG found 40 sharks illegally captured by four fishermen. Following the discovery, USCG officials detained the four fishermen. They then transferred the offenders to border enforcement agents for processing. Unfortunately, the sharks were not savable.
The Coast Guard asks anyone who witnesses suspicious activity in state waters (nine miles offshore or less) to report the sighting to their local Parks and Wildlife Department. Suspicious activity or illegal fishing occurring in federal waters (out to 200 miles offshore) should be reported to the USCG.