On Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard busted four fishermen for crossing into U.S. federal waters to illegally fish for sharks.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection tipped off Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi to a lancha boat with four fishermen who were fishing illegally about seven miles inside of U.S. waters.
The crew of the cutter USCGC Edgar Culbertson launched their response boat and intercepted the lancha. On board, they found and seized illegal fishing gear and a catch of 40 sharks. The Culbertson’s crew detained the four fishermen and transferred them to border agents for processing.
Lanchas are long, slender fishing boats with powerful outboards, and they are commonly used for drug-running and illegal fishing along the border zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Typically, lancha crews target valuable red snapper on the U.S. side of the boundary line, then carry it back to Mexico for sale into the restaurant trade; however, the gillnets they deploy for snapper have a high rate of bycatch, and sharks are a common secondary target. In 2020, Coast Guard boat crews intercepted lanchas in about 150 different incidents and detained about 550 Mexican fishermen.
“They’ll come into U.S. waters, they’ll fish, they’ll grab as much snapper as they can and they’ll go head back south before we can detect ’em. The average catch they’ll have on board is 1,000 to 3,000 pounds of snapper,” Lt. Cmdr. Dan Ippolito, commanding officer of Coast Guard Station South Padre Island, told NPR last year. “We’ve apprehended the same fishermen 25 times. We get a lot of repeat customers.”