In a shocking incident game wardens found off the Texas coast at least 3,000 juvenile and adult dead sharks tangled in illegal fishing nets. According to the Parks and Wildlife Department it is by far one of the largest numbers of sharks found dead.
Department spokesman Steve Lightfoot said that the illegal net was found at Texas’s southern South Padre Island near the border with Mexico.
“About 3 miles of gill net was removed just past the third sandbar near the mouth of the Rio Grande. The nets were running north to south, catching anything that attempted to get into shallow water.”
James Dunks the wildlife sergeant with the department who made the discovery on Sept. 7 said that it was startling to find so many sharks.
“This is by far the most sharks I have ever gotten in one load,” James said. “We have here probably two to three miles of gill net that was placed in our waters about four miles north of the Mexico border right off the beach. Unbelievable amount of sharks, anywhere between two and three thousand black tips, bonnetheads and sharp nose shark.”
Although no arrests have been made yet, authorities suspect Mexican fishermen with the illegal fishing.
Overfishing has decreased the amount of fishes in the Mexican coasts to such an extent that fishermen regularly cross the borders to catch fishes in the US side of the waters.
“They get over here in a matter of two minutes and be back in Mexico in a matter of two minutes … The guys we have caught in the past have flat told us that there are no more fish over there and that is why they are coming over here,” Dunks said.
Elizabeth Griffin Wilson, a member of a National Marine Fisheries Service advisory panel and also a shark expert for the conservation group Oceana said,
“It’s tragic to see U.S. efforts to rebuild shark populations being undermined by Mexican fishermen fishing illegally in U.S. waters. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. The U.S. Coast Guard has documented several cases of Mexican fishermen illegally catching sharks in U.S. waters this year.”
Among the incidents reported are also four on South Padre Island last January and February in which 71 sharks were illegally killed.
The concern is even for the shark varieties that are abundant because overfishing can eventually put pressure on the local population. And because sharks mature slowly and breeding slowly, incidents such as these can completely wipe out a species if it is already vulnerable.
“Sharks are slow growing species that have very few young, thus making it difficult to have sustainable fisheries,” Griffin Wilson said.