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Public Reefing Program, Offshore Aquaculture Regs Move Forward
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Nov. 2 adopted new rules that pave the way for a public reefing program in the state’s nearshore waters. In a separate action, the Commission voted to adopt regulations governing offshore aquaculture.
The new rules concerning artificial reefs establish a mechanism to govern the deployment of artificial reef materials in coastal waters by private individuals or entities. The changes give TPWD the authority to inspect and approve the artificial reef materials prior to them being placed at an approved TPWD location.
Public reefing sites will be located in state waters less than 60-feet deep near each of the navigable Gulf passes. Each site will be 160 acres in size and divided into blocks approximately 260ft by 260ft. The center of the reef site will be marked by a 10-ft yellow spar buoy chained to an anchor. The public will be assigned an individual block to reef their materials.
“The purpose of this program is to increase marine habitat in the Gulf of Mexico through the creation of nearshore reefs and thereby enhance fishing and some diving opportunities,” said Dale Shively, TPWD’s Artificial Reefing Program coordinator. “We’re going to develop reef sites that are closer to shore and will accommodate more small boat anglers.”
The artificial reef program will continue the efforts to get larger materials suitable for reefing in these nearshore areas as well as efforts for larger structure offshore. This new initiative allows for more local coastal involvement in the program.
The new rules concerning offshore aquaculture provide a process for obtaining a permit to conduct offshore aquaculture in Texas state waters, while ensuring protection of Texas coastal waters and native stocks. The new rules will establish a $1,500 licensing fee for each offshore aquaculture permit and procedures that the permitee must follow in order to maintain the permit. These procedures include requirements which will ensure the genetic integrity and protection of wild stocks in Texas waters and other requirements regarding the facilities and the introduction and removal of aquatic organisms in those facilities. .
Offshore aquaculture, a growing concern in some parts of the world, is relatively new to the Gulf of Mexico.
“We are trying to get ahead of the curve for two reasons,” said Larry McKinney, Ph.D., director of TPWD’s Coastal Fisheries division. “We see this coming on the horizon as a new development in the Gulf and we want to lay out a regulatory model that businesses can follow. Within that model, our primary goal is to protect our native fish stocks.”
The new regulations for both programs go into effect 20 days after publication in the Texas Register.
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