It’s the job of today’s federal agents posted at the nation’s ports of entry to uncover humans or illicit drugs being smuggled across the border from Mexico. They’ve learned that there is no end to the ways devious minds find of concealing contraband, that people desperate enough or greedy enough will try just about anything to get their cargo through the ports or across the borders.
We can only imagine being a fly on the wall when they share those stories with one another.
These latest seizures have proven to be real whoppers. Border agents are increasingly finding dried swim bladders of the endangered Totoaba macdonaldi fish, found only in Baja California’s Gulf of California and worth $10,000 to $20,000 on some foreign markets. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have seized more than 500 Totoaba fish bladders at Calexico ports of entry since February, and they are conservatively valued at more than $5 million combined on the black market.
The fish, which grows up to 7 feet long, once thrived in the gulf, also known as the Sea of Cortez, and were rumored to be so plentiful that they could be harpooned by a fisherman standing on the shoreline near San Felipe. But overfishing has proven to be the fish’s downfall, combined with shrinking breeding “ground” for Totoaba, which requires the brackish waters where the Colorado River meets the Sea of Cortez in order to reproduce. Those waters have diminished over the past century as river water is diverted north of the border. Another factor is said to be the manner in which shrimp, which surged in popularity in the middle of the last century, is harvested, disrupting food sources required by Totoaba and other species.
Today Totoaba is federally protected in both the U.S. and Mexico and it’s illegal to take, possess, transport or sell any part of the fish. But like any other illicit cargo transported by smugglers, the rules don’t matter if there’s a profit to be made.
That brings us back to those federal officers, whose job is to protect our borders and, it turns out, is far more complicated than stemming the tide of drugs flowing across the border. They deserve a public pat on the back for their alertness in uncovering this smuggling operation and all the other, more ominous, ones.
Agents uncover fish-smuggling ring.
A public pat on the back for uncovering this operation.
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