Thirteen Mexican fishermen were detected poaching red snapper far north of the U.S. maritime boundary off south Texas Monday when the Coast Guard moved in to break up their longlining operations, Coast Guard officials said.

Three lanchas – small, slim-hulled outboard boats of 20 to 30 feet that can run at 30 knots – were corralled about 50 miles inside the boundary and detained by crews on a Coast Guard cutter, small boat and helicopters.

The haul brought in 12 miles of longline gear, other fishing equipment illegal under U.S. law, and 2,020 pounds of poached red snapper.

A lancha crew is escorted by Coast Guard law enforcement after they wee stopped fishing in federal waters off south Texas. Coast Guard photo.

A lancha crew is escorted by Coast Guard law enforcement after they were stopped fishing in federal waters off south Texas. Coast Guard photo.

Mexico suffers from poor fishery management and enforcement, and the better fishing in waters off Texas is an irresistible lure for many fishermen. The recovery of red snapper in U.S. Gulf of Mexico waters has brought the fish back to a relatively consistent market with good prices.

The Coast Guard and Texas state authorities regularly patrol the sea frontier with Mexico against frequent probes by lancha crews.

“The Coast Guard’s continued commitment to protecting wildlife and deterring illegal fishing is highlighted in this case,” said Chief Warrant Officer Homar Barrera, a command duty officer at the Coast Guard’s Corpus Christi air station, in a statement describing the operation. “The teamwork between the command center and assets on scene resulted in the flawless execution of multiple interdictions.”

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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