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Coast Guard finds 5 miles of illegal gill net filled with shark

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A Coast Guard crew found an illegal gill net with hundreds of dead sharks Monday, four miles off the Texas coast.

The crew of a Coast Guard Station South Padre Island response boat spotted the gill net approximately 17 miles north of the U.S – Mexican maritime border. The gill net was five miles long and was loaded with 345 dead sharks.

The species of shark seized included 225 black tip, 109 bonnet, and 11 bull sharks.

“Gill nets indiscriminately kill any fish or marine mammal it snares across miles of ocean, often leaving much of the catch spoiled by the time it is hauled in,” according to Cmdr. Daniel Deptula, the response officer for Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi. “Mexican fisheries have been depleted due to wasteful fishing methods such as gill netting and over fishing, which is why there has been increased illegal fishing activity into U.S. waters.”

Typically, catches of shark such as this are also only harvested for their fins, and the rest of the shark is discarded. During calendar year 2012, Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi seized more than 49 miles of gill net from illegal fishing activities.

Gill nets are illegal throughout Texas and devastating to the marine environment.

“We hope our efforts continue to disrupt and dissuade this illegal enterprise along our South Texas shores,” said Deptula.

On a national level, the Coast Guard is the leader in at-sea enforcement of U.S. living marine resource laws designed to protect fish stocks and protect marine species to healthy, sustainable levels, ensuring a level playing field in the legal fishing industry.

The Coast Guard works closely alongside the Texas Parks and Wildlife agency, the Department of State, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to enforce domestic fisheries laws and protect the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone from foreign encroachment.

Article by Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Kendrick, U.S. Coast Guard District 8