HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Stretched out in the shadow of SpaceX, hundreds of feet of deadly gill net recently washed ashore on Boca Chica beach.
Entwined in the netting were five dead green sea turtles and various species of fish including sharks.
For decades, fishermen from Mexico have illegally entered U.S. and Texas waters, their gill nets indiscriminately entangling fish, sea turtles, and all marine species.
Over the years, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens and Coast Guard personnel have confiscated hundreds of miles of illegal gill net and long line from the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico.
However, in recent years, as fish populations in Mexican waters have steadily declined, more and more lanchas, or boats from Mexico, are slipping across the Rio Grande.
Captain Chris Dowdy, with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and his Cameron County game wardens have noticed a significant uptick in illegal incursions in recent months.
“25 trips we have seen a total of 27 lanchas while we have just been on patrol,” said Dowdy.
While Texas Game Wardens and the Coast Guard routinely confiscate miles of netting, the elusive lanchas are usually able to run back across the international boundary evading capture.
Dowdy said, “Approximately 14 miles of net have been pulled up since September 2021.”
Even when the Mexican lawbreakers are apprehended, deported and their boats confiscated, the lure of good fishing brings them right back across the border.
As law enforcement is stretched thin along the border, the public is encouraged to provide assistance.
“The great thing about this community is that the people who are from here love Boca Chica too, and we love Boca Chica too, and the only way we are going to protect Boca Chica, especially the fishing side and the resource side is for people to call in when they see things,” added Dowdy.
To report illegal netting call Texas Parks and Wildlife at Operation Game Thief at 1-800-792-GAME (4263).