Illegal Fishing in Gulf of Mexico

An endangered sea turtle and five sharks were released to the Gulf of Mexico late Sunday after the U.S. Coast Guard spotted Mexicans fishing illegally in U.S. waters, about a mile north of the U.S. and Mexico border. The lanchas were spotted by a Coast Guard air crew aboard an HU-25 Falcon jet, during a patrol of the border.

So far this year, Sector Corpus Christi and its units have seized 11 lanchas and more than 13 miles of fishing gear. Additionally, 513 fish and 86 sharks have been seized, and one live sea turtle has been returned to the sea.

Coast Guard Station South Padre Island dispatched a boatcrew at about 6:30 p.m. aboard a 33-foot Law Enforcement Special Purpose Craft to the last known position of the lanchas, a mile offshore. The station's boatcrew recovered the illegal fishing gear and was able to safely release an endangered sea turtle and five sharks back into the wild.


"Due to the quick response of Station South Padre Island's crew, five sharks and a sea turtle that were found in vessel's long-line gear were released back into the ocean alive," Cmdr. Daniel Deptula, the response department head at Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi, said. "This is a particularly significant case because we were able to save one of our endangered species and highlights the significant threat to the living marine resources of South Texas."

The three lanchas previously spotted were not found when boat crews arrived.

Illegal fishing by Mexican nationals in the gulf region, along the U.S. and Mexico border, continues to be a prevalent and complex issue. Gill netting and over fishing have depleted Mexican fisheries, resulting in increased illegal fishing in U.S. waters, Deptula said.

"And though these particular lanchas were found illegally fishing, these vessels are also known to smuggle illicit narcotics and people into the United States," he added.