In separate incidents, the Coast Guard seized two Mexican boats that were caught illegally fishing off the Gulf Coast waters of south Texas.
Coast Guard officials told the Associated Press that a boat was seized after an agency helicopter spotted it fishing about 26 miles offshore. Three Mexican citizens on board were taken into custody.
In the second incident, a disabled fishing boat was spotted about 34 miles off South Padre Island.
Officials told the AP that three Mexican citizens and illegal fishing gear were found on the boat.
Both incidents took place Friday.
The Coast Guard said 24 illegal fishing boats have been seized and another 176 have been detected since October.
According to a new bill seeking to stop the illegal fishing, red snapper — a hotly contested species that has strictly enforced U.S. quotas — is often the focus of Mexican boats fishing illegally off Texas. In a unanimous vote on Friday, the House Natural Resources Committee voted to move H.R. 774 to the floor of the House for passage.
The bill, which is called the “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015,” is designed to give the Coast Guard the power to stop, search and possibly arrest all foreign fishing boats in U.S. waters. The measure is particularly aimed at the illegal Mexican fishing that happens along the Texas coastline.
“By marking up this bill and advancing it to the House floor, the committee is moving toward protecting hundreds of thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars of revenue for U.S. businesses,” said Will Ward, a spokesman for the Gulf Fishermen’s Association, according to Wide Open Spaces. “We now encourage the full House to pass this bill as soon as possible to give U.S. law enforcement the added authority they need to effectively stop pirate fishing.”
According to the Gulf Coast Leadership Council, on a global scale about one in every five fish taken illegally comes from waters that connect to the United States, equaling about $23.5 billion in illegal fishing activities that ultimately affect the U.S. economy.