In Texas waters, Operation Shark Fin has resulted in the seizure of 17,500 feet of long lines and two vessels, as well as 15 citations or arrests.
“TPWD game wardens are committed to protecting our natural recourses across the state,” said Special Operations Chief Grahame Jones of the Law Enforcement Division for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“Operation Shark Fin focused on the lower coast border region where commercial fishing vessels from Mexico known as ‘launchas’ enter our state and federal waters illegally. The launcha crews use gill nets and long lines to catch whatever they can, including many shark species and red drum.”
More than 50 state game wardens and 10 TPWD vessels participated in the four-day, around-the-clock enforcement effort.
TPWD adds the following:
“During the special operation, game wardens made contact with 65 vessels, 5 vehicles, and 206 people.
“Wardens seized two launchas from Mexico (one on the Gulf of Mexico and one on Lake Falcon) and the U.S. Coast Guard seized a third vessel on the Gulf. In addition, wardens seized 17,500 feet of long lines in the Gulf, 6,300 feet of gill nets in the Rio Grande and Lake Falcon and 19 abandoned crab traps in the lower Rio Grande.
“‘In many cases,’ Jones said, ‘Mexican waters have been overfished. Because of that, we are now seeing an increasing number of vessels from Mexico illegally fishing in Texas or federal waters.’
“Citations or arrests included four for sport fishing violations; two commercial fishing violations (possession of headed/tailed snapper, fillets seized from shrimp boat); two drug-related arrests; three alcohol-related arrests; and two local warrant arrests. In addition, two juvenile runaways were located.
“Fish recovered from illegal long lines and gill net included Atlantic sharpnose sharks, black tip sharks, and red drum.
“Sharks, the most common target of these vessels, are harvested not only for their meat, but also for their fins. Shark fins, used for soup, are considered some of the world’s most expensive seafood and high demand for it supports a world-wide black market.
“Arrests in gill netting or long line cases are rare. When commercial fishermen from Mexico are caught in the act in Texas or U.S. waters, the only charges that can be filed are misdemeanors punishable by fines. However, the illegal fishing equipment and vessel can be seized.
“Marine interests spotting gill nets or long lines in Texas waters are urged to call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-792GAME (4263), contact a game warden or notify the U.S. Coast Guard.”