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SOUTH PADRE ISLAND (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard has freed an estimated 50 sharks caught in illegal nets strung in the Gulf of Mexico. The nets were found off the Texas coast near South Padre Island.

Coast Guard officials say five dead sharks were in the fishing gear associated with several Mexican boats that fled when the nets were discovered.

Lt. Hans De Groot said Thursday that the surviving sharks, some more than 3-feet long, were returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

De Groot says officials believe the fishing boats were after red snapper, but none turned up in the several hundred yards of gill nets discovered Tuesday.

The crew of a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted the fishing boats about 800 yards north of the U.S.-Mexico maritime boundary line.

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