Coast Guard releases illegally caught fish

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The crew of a Coast Guard Cutter, working with Operation Sea Serpent, recovered fish and shark caught illegally on longline gear by a Mexican lancha Friday in the Gulf of Mexico.

The cutter’s crew located a Mexican lancha suspected of illegally fishing in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. They pursued the lancha, but were unable to intercept it. After returning to the lancha’s original location, the cutter’s crew located and retrieved 500 yards of abandoned longline gear with 17 sharks, four Red Snapper and two eels. Approximately 75 percent of the catch was still alive and was released.

Coast Guard crews working with other law enforcement agencies in a joint effort operation called Operation Sea Serpent have compelled three similar Mexican longline fishing vessels back into Mexican waters in the past week.

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.

“We will continue to aggressively patrol the EEZ to guard against illegal fishing that is primarily targeting shark and Red Snapper. If caught, longline fishing vessels illegally fishing in U.S. waters face a potential max civil penalty of approximately $120,000,” said Cmdr. Dan Deptula, a response officer at Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi.

The Coast Guard has seized 21 lanchas and compelled 11 back into Mexican waters since October 2013.

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