By Joseph R. Fonseca
Coast Guard crews rescued four Mexican nationals from their sinking boat Saturday, after they were spotted illegally fishing north of the U.S./Mexico maritime border.
At approximately 8 p.m. Saturday, a crewmember aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Brant, an 87-foot coastal patrol boat, spotted a Mexican boatcrew poaching fish in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, 30 miles off South Padre Island.
Sector Corpus Christi Command Center watchstanders diverted a crew aboard a Station South Padre Island 33-foot law enforcement boat and diverted an Air Station Corpus Christi HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew to intercept. The aircrew vectored in the law enforcement boat and cutter.
The Brant's crew intercepted and stopped the lancha, but the lancha began to take on water. The four Mexican nationals were recovered from their sinking boat before it sank. They were transported to Station South Padre Island where they were transferred to Customs and Border Protection agents for repatriation to Mexico.
Earlier Saturday, the Brant's crew spotted four lanchas fishing inside the U. S. Exclusive Economic Zone and chased them south of the border.
Additionally, the Brant recovered over 800 yards of longline gear on Saturday. The majority of the gear was found in the same general area of the sunken lancha. Each mile of longline have scores of baited hooks and are capable of catching hundreds of fish per mile. The lines seized were discovered with 17 red snapper, two sharks and several other reef fish. All of these fish were found alive and released at sea.
“These cases exemplify how hazardous this illegal enterprise is, both for the Mexican nationals and our law enforcement personnel," said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Allen, the chief of enforcement for Sector Corpus Christi. "The four Mexican nationals recovered from their sinking boat are fortunate to be alive."
For all suspicious or illegal fishing occurring in federal waters (out to 200 miles offshore), please contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 361-939-6393.