Lanchas' illegal fishing impacting our red snapper populations, economy

Illegal fishing along the U.S.-Mexico border costs the country over $11 million in revenue each year, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - Illegal fishing along the U.S.-Mexico border costs the country over $11 million in revenue each year, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Since October, the U.S. Coast Guard sector at Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi has found 20 lanchas, or illegal Mexican fishing boats, in the area. Eight of those were caught, including one this past weekend.

According to Coast Guard officials, our economy is the one taking the blow from the lanchas when it comes to the U.S. red snapper population. They said the reason so many lanchas are found in the Gulf of Mexico is because Mexico's red snapper population has gone way down, causing Mexican fishermen to look in U.S. waters.

The lacha seizure this past weekend involved almost 900 pounds of red snapper and several dozen pounds of amberjack.

So what does the U.S. Coast Guard do with the cargo after it's confiscated?

"These fish are not necessarily on ice when they are caught, so when we actually seize the vessel it comes in, we can't really vouch for its human consumption safety," Coast Guard Captain Tony Hahn said. "So we dispose of the fish at sea."

Hahn said the way lanchas are able to catch so many fish is through a process called long lining. The fishermen set a series of hooks -- sometimes more than 200 -- onto a line and fish for bottom feeders like red snapper.

The U.S. Coast Guard says red snapper is a non-sustainable resource so if we fish for too much, the population will not come back. Hahn said catching the lanchas is crucial for our fishing economy.

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