On Thursday, December 29, a crew of US Coast Guard (USCG) agents intercepted a fleet of five speedboats illegally fishing in federal waters off the coast of south Texas. The operation resulted in the arrest of 22 Mexican fishermen and the seizure of nearly 600 pounds of red snapper, according to a news release issued by the USCG’s Eighth District Detachment from Houston, Texas.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Benjamin Daily is credited with finding and stopping the illegal fishing operation. The crew of the Benjamin Daily was with a different cutter named the Jacob Poroo when they destroyed the poachers with the help of Coast Guard aircrews patrolling nearby.
“Through our tremendous collective efforts, we continue to detect and deter illegal fishing that occurs in South Texas waters,” said Ryan Ortega, an officer with a USCG aircrew from Corpus Christi, Texas. “Our crews are always ready to protect US waters from foreign interference and enforce domestic living marine resource laws.”
In addition to the 590 pounds of red snapper, crews confiscated commercial and recreational fishing gear, GPS equipment, radios and three sharks. Agents transferred all 22 illegal fishermen to the Border Patrol for processing.
The type of boats seized by the USCG last Thursday are commonly called “lanchas.” A launch vehicle is a long, open-hulled craft with a thin profile—usually powered by an outboard motor. The vessels are often used to transport illegal narcotics into the United States and for illegal fishing within the US Exclusive Economic Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The first interception of a launch operating illegally in US waters occurred in the late 1980s, and the boats have been routinely targeted by Coast Guard officials since then.
“We view the launch issue as an immediate threat to our living marine resources, border security and US sovereignty,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brendan Dunn, assistant chief of enforcement, Coast Guard District Eight. “In recent years, the illegal trade in redfish, grouper, shark and other reef fish species has become extremely profitable for transnational criminal organizations operating in Mexico.”
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According to the USCG, up to 27 million tons of fish are illegally caught worldwide each year, with more than $23 billion in annual losses. In 2022 alone, nearly 16,000 pounds of illegally harvested fish were seized from the hulls of 387 Mexican lancas by USGS agents.