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NOAA Bans Mexico's Gulf of Mexico Fishing Fleet From U.S. Ports

lancha
A lancha operating illegally in the U.S. EEZ near South Padre Island, Texas (USCG)

Published Jan 17, 2022 4:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

NOAA has banned all Mexican fishing vessels that operate in the Gulf of Mexico from calling at U.S. ports, effective February 7. 

Cross-border illegal fishing is a persistent problem in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, where small Mexican fishing boats - lanchas - routinely cross into the U.S. EEZ to fish for red snapper. U.S. Coast Guard boat crews based near Brownsville, Texas interdict dozens of lanchas every year, confiscating the catch and detaining the fishermen.

NOAA gave Mexico a negative certification in its annual international fisheries report for 2021 because of its government's "continued failure to combat unauthorized fishing activities by small hulled vessels" in American waters. As a consequence, NOAA Fisheries announced that it would ban all Mexican fishing vessels that fish in the Gulf of Mexico from calling at any American seaport. These vessels will no longer be permitted to access port harbors, facilities or services.

“IUU fishing undermines U.S. fishermen who operate under the strongest fishery management practices and conservation laws, and NOAA will use every tool to make sure other nations follow the same rules," said Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. 

Over the course of FY2021, U.S. Coast Guard boat crews intercepted 78 lanchas, captured 15,000 pounds of illegal catch and detained 208 fishermen along the southern coast of Texas. The pace of the illegal activity has accelerated over the last three years, according to Coast Guard 8th District. 

In one noteworthy case in August, Coast Guard boat crews from South Padre Island, the cutter Pelican and Texas Parks and Wildlife worked together to intercept four lanchas carrying 320 pounds of snapper and 1,160 pounds of shark - in a single day.