Presenters: Dr. Bill Harvey

Commission Agenda Item No. 8
Seagrass Conservation Rules
June 2000

I. Discussion: In January 1999, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, General Land Office, and Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission published "The Seagrass Conservation Plan for Texas." The Plan found that seagrass meadows typically found in the shallow tidal flats are integral to ecosystem health of Texas’ coastal bays and estuaries. One of the recommendations of the Plan was to restore and protect seagrass meadows that are being fragmented by "prop scarring" related to random motor boat traffic across these shallow flats.

In July 1999, staff assembled a citizens’ advisory "Seagrass Conservation Task Force." The goals of the Task Force are:

The Task Force made the following recommendations:

The Task Force, in conjunction with Staff, drafted proposals for creation of two state scientific areas.

Redfish Bay State Scientific Area

The first proposal begins the process of protecting seagrass resources in the Redfish Bay area of the Coastal Bend. Redfish Bay is a prime fishing destination in the coastal bend and is perhaps the northern most site for extensive stands of turtlegrass and manatee grass. Many areas of Redfish Bay, principally in Estes Flats, have experienced extensive prop scarring.

Seagrass management strategies include:

Nine-Mile Hole State Scientific Area

The second proposal creates a Scientific Area in a portion of the Laguna Madre called " Nine-Mile Hole" and sometimes called "The Graveyard." This area is located south of Baffin Bay, and just south of the historic Yarborough Pass and part, the Hole overlays the Padre Island National Seashore. The objective of this proposal is to establish an area designed to enhance fishing experience by managing boat traffic through the Nine-Mile Hole. This proposal would set aside a portion of the "Hole" and prohibit all boat traffic through, but not around, this set-aside area. The net effect would be that of establishing an area free of high-speed boat traffic, which could be safely waded, paddled poled, drifted or accessed by trolling motor. The Padre Island National Seashore overlays part of this area and the staff of the National Seashore has agreed to help implement this strategy by establishing a voluntary prop up zone east of the mandatory zone.

In the absence of Commission reauthorization, both Scientific Areas would "sunset" five years after establishing the areas. Staff believes that these proposals will set in motion long-term strategies to enhance fishing, create new opportunities and preserve seagrass resources for all Texans.

II. Recommendation: Staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motions:

"The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts new 31 TAC §§57.920-57.921 as published in the April 28th, 2000 issue of the Texas Register."

Attachments – 2

  1. Exhibit A – Proposed Rules (Available Upon Request)
  2. Exhibit B – Fiscal Note ( Available Upon Request)