Texas A&M University at Galveston will host a stakeholder roundtable discussion and press conference on illegal fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, Aug. 18, from 9:00 am until noon, at 200 Seawolf Pkwy, in Galveston. 

Almost every week brings news about U.S. law enforcement catching illegal fishermen in the Gulf. In just one recent incident, Coast Guard crews on Aug. 4, intercepted and seized a Mexican boat and crew, who were fishing illegally and had in their possession 153 sharks totaling 1,500 pounds. The Coast Guard also recovered approximately 17 miles of long line that the illegal fishers had set in the Gulf. Each mile of long line has hundreds of baited hooks, and the Coast Guard pulled up more than 200 hooked fish, many still alive, on the recovered line.

According to the Coast Guard and Texas Parks and Wildlife officials, illegal fishing in the Gulf by foreign nationals is happening daily. In some cases, fleeing fishermen have fired shots at U.S. law enforcement officers.

This is a major economic, environmental and security issue for all the Gulf States, requiring immediate attention from policymakers. Further, illegal fishing threatens the sustainability of our marine resources, which have fought hard to protect.

Commercial and recreational fisheries are an economic engine in the Gulf of Mexico, providing jobs, tourism, tax revenue and sustainable seafood. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Gulf of Mexico’s commercial and recreational fishing industries support more than 168,000 jobs and contribute $13.7 billion annually to the region’s economy.

Globally, illegal and unreported fishing accounts for $23.5 billion worthy of wild-caught marine fish, or around one in five fish taken from our seas. That works out to up to 1,800 pounds of fish stolen every second.

The U.S. Senate recently voted unanimously to approve the Port State Measures Agreement, which strengthens port inspection protocols for foreign-flagged fishing vessels. We are hopeful the U.S. House of Representatives will consider similar legislation to implement the agreement.