Boat crews from Coast Guard Station South Padre Island routinely give chase to Mexican poachers who slip across the Texas border to illegally snatch shark and red snapper.
On Sunday they rescued some victims of the poachers, freeing three live green sea turtles from a gill net tangled with dead turtles and blacktip sharks.
Patrolling boat crews found 200 yards of gill net, gear that is illegal to use in Texas waters, about a quarter mile north of the mouth of the Rio Grande River near Brownsville, Texas.
A green turtles is released after being rescued from a gill net near the mouth of the Rio Grande River. Coast Guard photo.
The area on the U.S.-Mexico maritime border is a constant theater of operations between the Coast Guard and Texas state game wardens on the U.S. side, and Mexican crews in swift lanchas, 20- to 30-foot open boats with big outboard engines.
The poachers often deploy longlines or gill nets, attracted by better fishing on the U.S. side where fisheries are highly managed and regulated, compared to depleted grounds to the south. Violations have been on the rise in recent years and the Coast Guard regularly reports new cases.
“This incident is yet another example of the negative impacts of illegal fishing gear being set in U.S. waters,” said Lt. Kurtis Mees, the commanding officer of the South Padre Island station, in a statement issued Monday. “Not only does it impact this endangered species, but the entire ecosystem as a whole. Fortunately, we were able to free three live green sea turtles and remove this gill net before it trapped and killed any additional marine life.”