Texas game wardens conducting an enhanced marine patrol of the lower Rio Grande near Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville recently seized roughly 8,000 feet of illegal gillnet.
Although 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, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stated in a press release.
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, and confinement in jail not to exceed 180 days or both. Taking the fish, crabs and protected birds would bring additional charges.
“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.”
Anyone witnessing illegal commercial fishing or any poaching activity is encouraged to call Operation Game Thief at 800-792-4263.