Coast Guard pursues Mexican lanchas poaching off South Texas

March 22, 2015
Pictured are sharks removed from a lancha seized by Coast Guard crews from Air Station Corpus Christi and Station South Padre Island. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Sector Corpus Christi)

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Coast Guard pursued two Mexican fishing crews in the waters off South Texas on Friday afternoon, interdicting one of them.

At approximately 2 p.m., a Coast Guard aircrew aboard an Air Station Corpus Christi MH-65 Dolphin helicopter spotted a Mexican fishing boat, also known as a lancha, poaching fish approximately 10.5 miles north of the U.S./Mexico maritime border and 22 miles offshore. The aircrew witnessed the Mexican fishing crew dispose of three sets of illegal long line fishing gear at sea. The helicopter chased the lancha for 16 minutes before the lancha became dead in the water.

Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi watchstanders vectored in a boatcrew on a Station South Padre Island 33-foot law enforcement boat to assist with the interdiction. The crew of four Mexican nationals admitted to fishing illegally in U.S. waters and had possession of one set of illegal long line fishing gear on board, with five live red snapper and seven deceased shark.

At approximately 6 p.m., another Coast Guard MH-65 aircrew observed a different lancha setting illegal long line fishing gear and pursued it south of the U.S./Mexico maritime border before terminating the chase. Approximately a half mile of gear had been set.

The Coast Guard estimates over 1,100 annual lancha incursions into U.S. regulated waters, poaching upwards of 760,000 pounds of red snapper each year.

“Unfortunately, illegal fishing activities are not uncommon in South Texas. This is the 19th lancha seizure since Oct. 2014," said Cmdr. Daniel Deptula, response officer at Sector Corpus Christi. “The Coast Guard is committed to protecting marine resources and safely stopping these incursions.”

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.