Coast Guard conducts 78 lancha interdictions in fiscal year 2021

A launch crew is interdicted by Coast Guard law enforcement crews for engaging in illegal fishing in federal waters off the coast of southern Texas. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Coast Guard law enforcement crews interdicted 78 lanchas, seized 15,484 lbs of catch, and detained 208 fishermen during fiscal year 2021 along the Texas coast.

Since the first recorded lancha interdiction in the late 1980s, the Coast Guard has seen a significant uptick in the detection of the vessels, recording close to 300 lancha interdictions in the past three fiscal years combined.

A noteworthy case from this year was on Aug. 4, 2021, when Coast Guard Station South Padre Island worked with Coast Guard Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Coast Guard Cutter Pelican to interdict four lanchas with a total of 320 lbs of red snapper and 1,160 lbs of shark in one day.

In cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, the Coast Guard utilizes a layered approach to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing through aircraft, small boats, and cutters, as well as improved technology on those assets, resulting in the drastic increase in lancha interdictions.

“The crew at Station South Padre Island takes their role of protecting our natural resources from poaching along the Maritime Boundary Line very seriously,” said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Ippolito, commanding officer of Coast Guard Station South Padre Island. “The last few years of record-breaking lancha interdictions speak to the steadfast commitment, professionalism, and teamwork of the Coast Guard crews and our partners at Texas Parks and Wildlife to this mission. We ask that the public continue to stay vigilant and report any instances of illegal fishing to the Coast Guard or Texas Parks and Wildlife.”

A lancha is a fishing boat used by Mexican fishermen that is approximately 20-30 feet long with a slender profile. They typically have one outboard motor and are capable of traveling at speeds exceeding 30 mph. Lanchas pose a major threat, usually entering the United States Exclusive Economic Zone near the U.S.-Mexico border in the Gulf of Mexico with the intent to smuggle people, drugs, or poach the United State’s natural resources.

If you witness suspicious activity or illegal fishing in state waters (out to 9 miles offshore), please contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s “Operation Game Thief” at 1-800-792-GAME (4263). For all suspicious activity or illegal fishing occurring in federal waters (out to 200 miles offshore), please contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 361-939-0450.

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