orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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March 1, 2013

Operation Shark Fin targets illegal gill netting and long lines along lower coast

AUSTIN, Texas —  

Operation Shark Fin, a four-day, around-the-clock Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement effort along the lower coast aimed at disrupting trans-national criminal organizations engaged in illegal commercial fishing and other activities in the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande, and Lake Falcon has resulted in the seizure of 17,500 feet of long lines, two vessels and 15 citations or arrests.

More than 50 state game wardens and 10 TPWD patrol vessels participated in the intensive operation, which began Monday and concluded at 12 a.m. Friday.

“TPWD game wardens are committed to protecting our natural recourses across the state,” said Special Operations Chief Grahame Jones of the TPWD Law Enforcement Division. “Operation Shark Fin focused on the lower coast border region where commercial fishing vessels from Mexico known as “launchas” enter our state and federal waters illegally. The “launcha” crews use gill nets and long lines to catch whatever they can, including many shark species and red drum.”

During the special operation, game wardens made contact with 65 vessels, 5 vehicles and 206 people.

Wardens seized two "launchas" from Mexico (one on the Gulf of Mexico and one on Lake Falcon) and the U.S. Coast Guard seized a third vessel on the Gulf. In addition, wardens seized 17,500 feet of long lines in the Gulf, 6,300 feet of gill nets in the Rio Grande and Lake Falcon and 19 abandoned crab traps in the lower Rio Grande.

“In many cases,” Jones said, “Mexican waters have been overfished. Because of that, we are now seeing an increasing number of vessels from Mexico illegally fishing in Texas or federal waters.”

At one point during the operation, game wardens assisted the Coast Guard, South Padre Island Police and the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office in the search for the body of a man believed to have jumped from the Queen Isabella Causeway connecting Port Isabel and South Padre Island. Wardens also assisted one disabled vessel during the operation.

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