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1,000 pounds of illegally caught sharks seized by Coast Guard

Roughly 1,000 pounds of illegally caught shark was seized by the U.S. Coast Guard in Southern Texas on Sunday, authorities said. 

A South Padre Island Coast Guard crew spotted four Mexican fishermen alongside the coastline in a lancha, a slender speed boat often used to fish illegally during the day, the Coast Guard said in a news release on its website. U.S. Coast Guard crews often seize illegal captures of red snapper, sharks and other types of fish. At night, the lanchas can be used to traffic drugs between Matamoros, Mexico, and Texas, according to research conducted by the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and the Coast Guard.

Video taken by the U.S. Coast Guard aircrew showed the four fishermen wearing fluorescent green waders pulling sharks from the side of their boat. When authorities pulled over the men, in addition to the sharks, they found fishing gear, radios, GPS devices and high flyer fishing poles on board, authorities said. 

The sharks were seized and the fisherman was transferred to border enforcement agents for processing, the Coast Guard said.

Sergeant James Dunks, a game warden with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told NPR in 2011 that people from Playa Bagdad, a small fishing village south of the border, come across searching for fish. 

"They have just pretty much claimed that they have fished all their fish out of their end of the water, so that's why they've been coming across," Dunks told NPR.

A 2021 study showed humans are to blame for the 70%  decline in shark and ray populations around the world. If overfishing isn't stopped the species could soon be wiped out completely.

Texas has long been a hot spot for shark fishing and trade. In 2015, Texas banned the trade of shark fins after the state emerged as a "trading hub" when the practice was banned elsewhere, said nonprofit Oceana in a press release

Anglers can fish for sharks in Texas waters and can catch one shark daily, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. Anglers are prohibited from catching 22 specific shark species but can catch 16 other species, said the Texas Farm Bureau. These restrictions are "for consistent enforcement within state waters," said Dakus Geeslin, TPWD deputy director of Coastal Fisheries in the news release.

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