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Jan. 22, 2009

Flounder, Paddle Craft Guides and Consistency with Fed Regs Top Coastal Fisheries Issues at TPW Commission Hearing

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners Wednesday approved several proposed changes to saltwater fishing regulations recommended by TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division staff. The changes include new regulations dealing with flounder, federal consistency issues for sharks and other species, and a paddle craft licensing and training program. Scoping of these issues has been ongoing since the fall of 2008.

The Coastal Fisheries Division proposals are part of statewide proposed hunting and fishing regulation changes for the upcoming 2009-2010 season. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has set a record 46 public hearings across the state in February and March to explain the proposals and seek public input. Hearing dates and locations are on the 2009 TPWD Statewide Public Hearings Web page. After the regulations proposals are published in the Texas Register in early February, anyone may also comment online via the TPWD Opportunities for Comment Web page. The TPW Commission will make final decisions about proposed regulations at its March 25-26 meeting in Austin.

Details about the possible regulation changes can be found below, and TPWD invites the public to weigh in on these possible proposals by clicking the public comments section on the TPWD home page.

Flounder — As briefed at the August Commission meeting Coastal Fisheries biologists believe that long-term downward trends in the southern flounder fishery warrant consideration of proposed regulations that will reverse the downward trend in abundance. The proposal approved by the Commission for publication in the Texas Register includes a statewide closure for the month of November. Additionally, the proposal would change bag limits to five fish for recreational anglers and 30 fish for commercial anglers. Possession limits for flounder are the same as bag limits.

Federal Consistency - Coastal Fisheries staff continue to look at several species managed jointly with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to become more consistent in terms of bag and size limits.

Sharks — Specifically, this item will change the minimum length limit for those species allowed from 24 inches total length (TL) to 64 inches TL, except for Atlantic sharpnose, blacktip, and bonnethead sharks which will retain the current 24 inch TL minimum length limit. For the allowable shark species the bag limit will remain one fish per person per day and a two fish possession limit. In addition a prohibited list (zero bag limit) will be established for the following shark species:

Other Species — The proposed amendments include species that have been found to be in an overfished condition or undergoing overfishing. The proposed changes include: increasing the minimum size limit for greater amberjack from 32 inches to 34 inches TL, and establishing minimum size limits of 14 inches for gray triggerfish and 22 inches for gag. The bag limit for gray triggerfish would be 20 per person and for gag grouper it would be set at 2 per person with the possession limits being twice the daily bag limit.

Paddle Craft Licensing — A proposal to consider a change that would allow paddle craft operators to receive a saltwater guide license by establishing a different set of requirements other than a United States Coast Guard (USCG) Operator of an Uninspected Passenger Vessel license. The USCG license current requirements may fail to address the unique safety issues associated with paddle craft and also may be restricting the licensing of paddle craft guides due to the "sea time" requirement. The proposal will create a paddle craft guide license and in order to receive the license the guide will have to show certification or proof of completion of a TPWD boater safety course and CPR/First Aid training, and completion of the American Canoe Association "Level II Essentials of Kayak Touring" and "Coastal Kayak Trip Leading" courses or British Canoe Union "Three Star Sea Kayak" and "Four Star Leader Sea Kayak" courses.

AR 2009-01-22

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