BROWNSVILLE, Texas — An endangered sea turtle and five sharks were released back to the ocean late Sunday night after the Coast Guard spotted Mexicans fishing illegally in U.S. waters, approximately 1 mile north of the U.S. and Mexico border.
The fishing boat, known as a lancha, was spotted along with three others by a Coast Guard air crew aboard an HU-25 Falcon jet, during a patrol of the border.
Coast Guard Station South Padre Island dispatched a boatcrew at about 6:30 p.m. aboard a 33-foot Law Enforcement Special Purpose Craft (SPC-LE) to the last known position of the lanchas, 1 mile offshore. The station’s boatcrew quickly 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,” said Cmdr. Daniel Deptula, the response department head at Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi. “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.
“Mexican fisheries have been depleted due to wasteful fishing methods such as gill netting and over fishing, which is why there has been increased illegal fishing activity into U.S. waters,” said Deptula. “And though these particular lanchas were found illegally fishing, these vessels are also known to smuggle illicit narcotics and people into the United States.”
During 2013, Sector Corpus Christi and its outlying 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.