Written by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Texas game wardens are amping up efforts along the border to stop illegal fishing, and the efforts are already paying off.
Texas game wardens conducting an enhanced marine patrol of the lower Rio Grande near Boca Chica along the Texas–Mexico border recently seized roughly 8,000 feet of illegal gillnet.
Though no arrests were made, the gillnet is believed to have belonged to commercial fishermen from Mexico. Fishing with a gillnet in Texas waters is a violation of state law.
Game wardens found hundreds of fish trapped in the netting, including red drum, snook, black drum, sheepshead, tarpon, mullet, jack crevalle, and gizzard shad. In addition to fish, the gillnet contained blue crabs, as well as cormorants and brown pelicans. Game wardens were able to save two of the brown pelicans, but the other birds had died.
Using a gillnet in state waters is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000, confinement in jail not to exceed 180 days or both. Taking the fish, crabs, and protected birds would bring additional charges.
“Illegal commercial fishing activity from Mexico poses a significant threat towards the natural resources of Texas and we take the threat extremely seriously,” said Maj. Malcom Wilkes.
Anyone witnessing alleged illegal commercial fishing or any poaching activity is encouraged to call their local game warden or Operation Game Thief at (800) 792-GAME (4263).
“Game Wardens working the Rio Grande, the Gulf of Mexico, and border lakes are working in a very complex, demanding, and dangerous environment,” said Grahame Jones, TPWD chief of Special Operations. “In addition to routine interdiction of commercial fishermen from Mexico who are fishing Texas waters illegally, our game wardens encounter human smugglers and drug smugglers very frequently.”
“It is important to realize that the same groups from Mexico that utilize long-lines and gillnets in Texas waters to indiscriminately remove thousands of sharks, reef fish, turtles, dolphins, and other species of marine life also take part in other illegal smuggling activities,” said Capt. James Dunks, who is based in Brownsville. “Our presence along the Texas Border helps to protect our natural resources significantly while also helping to protect Texas against other criminal activity.”
For more information on TPWD’s ongoing efforts to confront illegal fishing practices along the border, see http://www.tpwmagazine.com/archive/2014/oct/ed_3_poachers/index.phtml