|A cooler full of illegally taken red snapper from near Corpus Christi on Thursday evening.|
(Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)
But experts say the issue is a problem across the Texas coast, and threatens an angling industry and the population of one of the Gulf of Mexico's most prized fish--the red snapper.
Since October 1, 2017, 58 Mexican boat crews have been caught fishing illegally or poaching along the Texas coast near Corpus Christi, resulting in nearly 25,000 pounds of illegally taken fish, according to the United States Coast Guard Corpus Christi Sector, which routinely patrols the are looking for these illegal fishermen who end up in United States Federal waters just offshore of Texas.
This latest incident happened on Thursday evening when Coast Guard officials interdicted a boat known as a "lancha", just off the coast of Padre Island.
|The Lancha boat used by the four Mexican poachers on Thursday|
A spokesperson with the United States Coast Guard in Corpus Christi says that these poachers are using a method of angling known as "longline" fishing and the problem is becoming worse and worse.
"Illegal fishing has far-reaching consequences as angling is worth millions of dollars to the region's economy" says Jason Fitch a biologist and angler living near Corpus Christi.
"There is already a debate about fish counts, season lengths and regulations on both recreational fishing and commercial interests", Fitch says. And he believes that though not a new topic of discussion, these illegal poachers are certainly a topic that needs to be addressed.
"They are not only stealing fish from our economy, they are not abiding by laws that are put in place to protect the fish population", Fitch says.
"A rebuilding plan was implemented in 2005 with the goal of rebuilding the Gulf of Mexico red snapper stock by 2032. That's not to say that the snapper stock is in dire straits, because it isn't. The stock numbers are increasing through wise fishery management and regulation along with cooperation between regulators and fishermen. But, that doesn't mean we can just open up fishing and people catch what they want when they want--that would make zero sense. But with the lancha boats coming up here to poach fish, we then start to have inaccurate counts and it can and does strain the fish stock. So, you can see why this is an issue", Fitch tells me.
"Illegal anglers can damage the whole ecology of the Gulf, as well as impacting on angling as a sport" Fitch says.
"Responsible angling helps protect the environment and is a big draw for tourism. We struggle enough on our own with irresponsible angling as it is and it's important that we continue to crack down on illegal fishing activity so that it remains sustainable for licensed fisherman."
The Coast Guard says that if you witness suspicious activity or illegal fishing in state waters (out to 9 miles offshore), to please contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s “Operation Game Thief” at 1-800-792-GAME (4263). For all suspicious activity or illegal fishing occurring in federal waters (out to 200 miles offshore), to please contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 361-939-6393.