AUSTIN – Texas game wardens recently wrapped up a crackdown on illegal commercial fishing trade along the Texas-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley, citing nearly two dozen retail fish dealers for a variety of seafood industry related violations.
Operation Dragnet was a multi-agency inspection operation targeting illegal seafood trade, and resulted in issuance of 22 citations and 7 warnings ranging from no retail truck dealer’s license, no finfish license, no cash sale tickets, purchasing fish from unlicensed dealer, and possessing oysters for sale or consumption without labeling. The five-day operation involved uniformed and undercover state game wardens, and federal officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and inspectors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“With the assistance of our federal partners, game wardens inspected commercial fish vehicles along several ports of entries in Cameron and Hidalgo counties,” said Game Warden Maj. Chad Jones. “Regulations governing importation of commercial aquatic products into Texas from Mexico must be followed to ensure health and safety. Without the required licenses, permits and invoices showing where the fresh seafood came from, there are no guarantees products like oysters were harvested and handled correctly.”
In addition to vehicle inspections, game wardens inspected retail businesses and visited with individuals on social media offering fresh seafood for sale. During the operation in Cameron County, a local restaurant purchased fresh fish from plain clothes game wardens. The purchase of aquatic seafood for resale or consumption must be from a licensed dealer or commercial fisherman.
An inspection found the same restaurant that purchased fresh fish illegally was also in possession of uncertified oysters, which poses a potentially serious health risk to the public. Without proper documentation of origin, if a person consumed these illegal oysters and became infected with vibrio, for example, officials would not be able to trace the origin of the shellfish from harvest to commercial sale. That case is being referred to the Cameron County District Attorney for consideration. The penalty for possession of unlabeled molluscon shellfish is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by either a fine not exceeding $4,000, confinement in jail for up to one year or both.
More information concerning commercial fishing industry regulations can be obtained from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens or any TPWD law enforcement office.
You can make a difference by reporting poaching through Operation Game Thief. Up to $1,000 may be paid for information leading to arrest and conviction of individuals in violation of state wildlife and fisheries laws. REWARD HOTLINE (800) 792-GAME