The Coast Guard interdicted a Mexican fishing crew poaching in South Texas, Thursday, after it was pursued by a Coast Guard aircraft and intercepted by the 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Cobia. In an unrelated incident after intercepting the lancha, a crewmember from the Cobia fell and was injured, requiring a medevac.
A 25-foot Mexican fishing boat, also known as a lancha, was spotted by a civilian aircraft fishing 30 miles offshore and 72 miles north of the U.S./Mexican border at approximately 2 p.m. The aircraft immediately notified Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi, who launched an aircrew aboard an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter to identify and pursue the lancha. The aircrew coordinated with the Cutter Cobia to intercept as the lancha began to flee south toward Mexican waters. The Coast Guard helicopter pursued the lancha for 22 miles and guided Cutter Cobia toward the boat. The Cobia deployed its 17-foot small oat and crew, which stopped the lancha, with five people aboard, at approximately 6 p.m.
The lancha was initially discovered actively fishing without a legal permit and caught more than 455 red snapper in U.S. waters, a violation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and one of the largest known local seizures in recent years. Currently, red snapper is a closed fishery in federal waters until June 1. Civil penalties associated with this violation can range between $100,000 and $140,000. The catch was released at sea.
A fleet of three other lanchas were spotted by the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Venturous 2 miles north of the maritime boundary line and were pursued until reaching territorial seas of Mexico. An additional lancha was spotted by Coast Guard aircraft crews near an offshore oil rig approximately 70 miles north of the border. Efforts to relocate and pursue this vessel were impeded by darkness and rising sea conditions. Mexican officials were notified of these multiple incursions.
“This is a deliberate and brazen exploitation of a coveted fish species in South Texas by these fleets originating from Mexico,” said Cmdr. Daniel Deptula, the response officer of Sector Corpus Christi. “We applaud the vigilant citizen that reported the activity to the Coast Guard. And, in order to deal with this poaching epidemic, it will take a continued team effort of law enforcement, regulatory agencies and a concerned public.”
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.
After the Cobia seized an illegal Mexican fishing vessel, a female crewmember aboard the cutter sustained a head injury from a fall suffered due to the pitching and rolling sea state.
The crew of the Cobia immediately notified Sector Corpus Christi and requested the crewmember be medevaced. Sector Corpus Christi launched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew which hoisted the injured crewmember from the deck of the ship and brought her to Naval Activity Support Corpus Christi to waiting EMS.
The crewmember was released from the hospital later that night and is back with her crew.