Coast Guard crews in South Texas located and recovered a gill net with 65 deceased sharks Monday.
At approximately 2 p.m. on a routine patrol, an aircrew aboard an HU-25 Falcon airplane spotted floating fishing gear approximately 20 miles off South Padre Island and 37 miles north of the U.S./Mexico maritime border.
Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi immediately diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Amberjack, an 87-foot coastal patrol boat. The cutter’s crew retrieved 1 mile of abandoned gill net with 65 sharks caught. All of the sharks were badly decomposed.
“Illegal drift gill nets with very small mesh are referred to as ‘the wall of death.’” said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Brand, the living marine resources officer of the Coast Guard’s 8th District. “These nets are so effective at catching and killing fish that their use is illegal in both federal and state waters in the Gulf of Mexico and highly regulated by fishing management. This lost fishing gear is a common occurrence in this region. When a Mexican lancha is detected by U.S. law enforcement, they abandon their gear which continues to ‘ghost fish’ without a parent vessel to retrieve it.”
The gill net in this case is suspected to have been placed by Mexican fishermen illegally poaching in U.S. waters aboard a lancha. The Coast Guard has seized 28 lanchas, compelled 34 back into Mexican waters and retrieved more than 12 nautical miles of illegal fishing gear since October 2013.