The Coast Guard interdicted a Mexican fishing crew poaching in South Texas waters, Sunday, 30 miles offshore and 70 miles north of the U.S./Mexican border.
At 12:30 p.m., a 25-foot Mexican fishing boat, also known as a lancha, was spotted by an aircrew aboard a HU-25 Falcon jet, from Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi.
The aircraft immediately notified Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi, who launched an aircrew aboard an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Corpus Christi and a 33-foot Law Enforcement Special Purpose Craft (SPC-LE) from Coast Guard Station South Padre Island to pursue the lancha.
The aircrews guided the 33-foot SPC-LE in to intercept as the lancha began to flee south toward Mexican waters. The crew of the 33-foot SPC-LE stopped the lancha 33 miles north of the border with four people aboard, at 2 p.m.
The lancha was initially discovered actively fishing without a legal permit and had caught 450 red snapper in U.S. waters. The red snapper were all dead and packed in ice. The lancha was towed back to Station South Padre Island and the four crewmembers were turned over to Customs and Border Protection.
“Although the red snapper season in federal waters started today, it wasn’t meant for foreign vessels without permits,” said Cmdr. Daniel Deptula, the response officer at Sector Corpus Christi. “It appears they stole the daily equivalent of approximately 225 licensed citizens, provided the fish were legal size. Instead, it is another deliberate and significant violation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act with a maximum civil penalty of $140,000.”
If you witness suspicious or illegal fishing in state waters (out to 9 miles offshore), please contact Texas Parks & Wildlife Department “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.