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U.S. Coast Guard cracks down on illegal fishing operations

A lieutenant commander spoke with 3News for some insight into how the program operates.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Corpus Christi Coast Guard Air Station is often called to help track down fishing boats from Mexico illegally catching fish in US waters.

Officials with the Coast Guard said it’s had a busy year along our state's coastline as it stopped nearly 80 Mexican fishing boats from illegally catching fish in U.S. waters.

Lieutenant Commander Daniel Ippolito, with the U.S. Coast Guard Station of South Padre Island, said there is no telling what they might find when stopping boats.

"We’ve interdicted now anywhere from anywhere from 100 pounds on board, to 2,500 pounds on board, by the time we get to them," Ippolito said. 

For the year, 78 lanchas have been stopped and seized along with some 15,000 pounds of catch. Lanchas are 20 to 30 foot fishing boats that the Coast Guard said can be loaded down with red snapper or even shark. Ippolito said he has seven boats dedicated to not only search and rescue missions, but stopping illegal fishing drug and migrant operations.

"The Coast Guard uses this twin engine airplane airplane out of Corpus Christi Christi headquarters to go and try and find those lanchas that are out there in the Gulf."

Ippolito said there are a number of fishermen who are captured over and over, but each time they’re caught their boat is seized and will never hit the waters again.

"We keep the boat on the grounds at the station and after a certain amount of time, we'll have the boat destroyed," Ippolito said. 

The Coast Guard began going after the Mexican fishing boats back in the late 1980s. They say that over the past few years, they have seen an increase in the number of these fishermen in our waters. Statistics show for the last three years they have stopped nearly 300 of these lanchas. 

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