CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Coast Guard spotted five, pursued three and interdicted one Mexican fishing vessel in U.S. waters Tuesday afternoon.
At approximately 12:30 p.m. on a routine patrol, a Coast Guard Air Station Mobile aircrew aboard an HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane spotted two lanchas near the U.S./Mexico maritime border almost 30 miles from shore. Both immediately fled south upon detecting the aircraft overhead. Shortly after that event, three additional lanchas were spotted approximately 42 miles offshore of South Padre Island and 22 miles north of the border. Again, upon seeing the low-flying aircraft, the lanchas immediately scattered and headed south.
Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi diverted crews aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Amberjack, an 87-foot coastal patrol boat, a Corpus Christi based MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and a Coast Guard Station South Padre Island 33-foot law enforcement boat to help locate and interdict the lanchas. The Ocean Sentry aircrew vectored in the Amberjack as the lanchas fled toward the border. The Amberjack pursued one lancha more than 40 minutes until the lancha crew finally stopped 13 miles north of the border. There were no injuries or damage to either the lancha or the patrol boat after the long chase in 4-5 foot seas. There were four Mexican nationals aboard, who admitted to fishing illegally in U.S. waters. They had 45 snapper totaling 378 pounds and 16 sharks totaling 231 pounds.
The remaining two lanchas were compelled across the border by both aircraft.
“We didn’t catch them all, but for today I think they all got the message. Unfortunately this brazen and persistent threat will be back again tomorrow conducting illegal activity on our side of the border. And we’ll be ready when they do,” said Cmdr. Daniel Deptula, the response officer of Sector Corpus Christi.