Coast Guard finds, releases illegally caught shark near Mexican border

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team, working with Operation Sea Serpent, recovered shark and eel suspected of being illegally caught by two Mexican lanchas on longline gear Sunday.

A Coast Guard Cutter located two Mexican lanchas approximately 10 miles offshore from South Padre Island in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. The cutter was unable to intercept them the lanchas. The MSST arrived near the lancha’s original location and retrieved 2,300 yards of freshly set and abandoned longline gear with eight blacktip sharks and one eel. Six of the sharks and the eel were still alive and were released back into the water.

Operation Sea Serpent is a joint law enforcement operation aimed at stopping Transnational Criminal Organizations from using maritime routes for illicit activity and to protect our living marine resources national assets from exploitation.

“This joint law enforcement effort is yielding almost daily encounters with Mexican lanchas suspected of illegally fishing in our EEZ,” said Cmdr. Dan Deptula, a response officer at Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi. “We will continue patrolling U.S. waters by sea and air to protect marine life from being illegally caught.”

The Coast Guard has seized 21 lanchas, compelled 19 back into Mexican waters and retrieved 10.5 nautical miles of illegal fishing gear since October 2013.

If you witness suspicious or illegal fishing in state waters (out to 9 miles offshore), please contact Texas Parks & 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.

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