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Coast Guard Catches Poachers, 153 Sharks

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Coast Guard crews intercepted and seized a Mexican boat and crew illegally fishing in U.S. waters Sunday, continuing the seventh busy day for federal fisheries enforcement officers. They gathered approximately 17 miles of long line from U.S. waters, more than 500 fish and one vessel seized with several risky high-speed chases to evade Coast Guard crews.

The poachers intercepted Sunday had 153 separate sharks totaling more than 1,500 pounds.

At approximately 7:30 a.m., an aircrew aboard a Coast Guard HU-25 Falcon surveillance aircraft spotted a Mexican fishing vessel known as a lancha approximately three miles north of the border and 22 miles offshore. It was moving fast toward the border. The aircrew began chasing the lancha south and reported it to watch standers at the Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi Command Center.

The Command Center dispatched a 33-foot interceptor boat from Coast Guard Station South Padre Island. The interceptor crew caught the lancha four miles south of the border and 15 miles offshore. The boat and four crewmembers were towed to Station South Padre Island, where the vessel remained in custody while the crew was repatriated back to Mexico. 

“These events are always time sensitive due to sighting the lancha in close proximity to the international boundary line,” said Lt. Austin Montanez, a pilot aboard the Falcon. “It takes incredible teamwork among the responding units and every second can mean the difference between an interdiction and one of the many that got away.”

Earlier in the week, several lanchas were spotted and chased back into Mexican waters. In separate events, the Coast Guard Cutter Brant spotted five lanchas and chased two of them south of the border. Falcon aircrews also spotted and pursued two lanchas. In total, Coast Guard crews aboard the Brant, Amberjack, and Sturgeon also found and seized approximately 17 miles of long line fishing gear. 

Each mile of long line have scores of baited hooks and are capable of catching hundreds of fish. The seized lines were discovered with 212 Red Snapper, 107 Sharks and several other reef fish. Many of them were still found alive and released at sea.

“Pulling up long line gear is a hazardous and exhausting task for my crew,” said Petty Officer Second Class Patrick O’Connor, a crewmember aboard Coast Guard Cutter Brant, “We pulled up about four miles of fishing line by hand while pitching and rolling with the waves. Every five feet or so, there was a sharp and dirty hook that can easily injure a crewmember. On top of that, many of the hooks had an angry fish or shark that we needed to release.”

In South Texas, the Coast Guard partners with federal and state agencies to combat illegal fishing. If you witness suspicious or illegal fishing in state waters (out to nine miles offshore), please contact Texas Parks and Wildlife http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us “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 United States Coast Guard at 361-939-6393.

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