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U.S. Coast Guard Seizes Five Illegal Fishing Boats in One Day off Texas

Lancha bust
Image courtesy USCG

Published Dec 10, 2023 5:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard regularly intercepts Mexican fishermen operating illegally in American waters off the coast of Texas, but a series of busts on Saturday was more serious than usual. Working together with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), the service intercepted five lanchas and seized more than a ton of illegal catch. 

“Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing depletes our precious natural resources, disrupts our economy and threatens the marine environment,” said Coast Guard Capt. Hans Govertsen, commanding officer, Air Station Corpus Christi. “We are blessed to work alongside our local, state, federal, and international partners and are fiercely committed to stopping these illegal operations.”

On Saturday, Coast Guard boat crews from Station South Padre Island busted four lanchas and 16 fishermen just north of the demarcation line for the U.S. exclusive economic zone. The fishermen were detained and their catch confiscated, and the suspects were transferred to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for processing.

Image courtesy USCG

Air Station Corpus Christi had an aircrew working with the Coast Guard boat team, and the aircrew spotted another boat operating illegally. They passed the location to a Texas Parks & Wildlife boat crew, who intercepted it and brought the total to five boats for the day. 

Between the game wardens and the Coast Guard, the total captured catch came to 2,640 pounds of illegal red snapper. 

The lanchas that cross over the boundary line to fish in U.S. waters are generally about 30 feet long, have one outboard motor, and can make a speed of about 25 knots. They often serve a dual purpose transporting narcotics across the border, and their operations are believed to be supported by the Gulf Cartel, which can afford to underwrite the expense of seized boats and outboards.