Regulations Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., May 30, 2001

Commission Hearing Room
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
Subject Public Hearing
Agenda Item No.
  Approval of the Committee Minutes from the previous meeting.  
  Summary of Minutes  
1. Chairman's Charges (Oral Presentation) Committee Only
2. 2001-2002 Migratory Game Bird Proclamation
Staff: Vernon Beville
3. Deer Management
Staff: Jerry Cooke
4. Quail Decline
Staff: Gary Graham
Committee Only
5. Aquaculture MOU
Staff: Raenell Silcox
6. Other Business  

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Regulations Committee
April 4, 2001

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 4th day of April 2001, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the commission hearing room of the Parks and Wildlife Headquarters complex, Austin, Travis County, Texas, beginning at 9:40 a.m., to-wit:


Carol E. Dinkins, Chair
Lee M. Bass
Dick Heath (Absent)
Nolan Ryan (Absent)
Ernest Angelo, Jr.
John Avila, Jr.
Alvin L. Henry
Katharine Armstrong Idsal
Mark E. Watson, Jr.

II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES: The minutes of the last committee meeting were approved.



The chair recognized Executive Director Andrew Sansom. Mr. Sansom began by addressing an agency action to implement directives of the 76th Legislature, the adoption of a Memorandum of Understanding between the department, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, and the Texas Department of Agriculture concerning aquaculture. Mr. Sansom then provided an update on the status of legislation in the current legislative session, including the Sunset process and a bill regulating abandoned crab traps. Mr. Sansom then gave background on Reel Texas Adventures, a new program modeled on the Big Time Texas Hunts.


The chair recognized Paul Hammerschmidt of the Coastal Fisheries Division. Mr. Hammerschmidt informed the committee of public comment in response to department proposals to increase the daily bag limit for Spanish mackerel and to specify the color of floats on commercial crab traps. The chair then recognized Ken Kurzawski of the Inland Fisheries Division. Mr. Kurzawski reviewed the proposals affecting freshwater fishing regulations and the public comment on each, including alterations to length limits for largemouth bass on Lake Sweetwater, Pinkston Reservoir, O.H. Ivie Reservoir; smallmouth bass on seven reservoirs; and gear restrictions on two small reservoirs. After review of public comment, staff recommended no changes to the freshwater fishing proposals. The chair recognized Jerry Cooke of the Wildlife Division. Mr. Cooke reviewed department proposals affecting hunting regulations. He began with a proposal that originated with a petition from a member of the public. The petitioner requested that the opening day of quail season be advanced by one week. Mr. Cooke explained that although staff felt there would be no biological consequences, the staff recommendation was to deny the request because of public perceptions of quail abundance. Commissioner Angelo pointed out that the season need not open early every year, just those years in which it would conflict with the opening day of deer season, and asked if the regulation could be worded to take that situation into account. Mr. Cooke responded that he would have to check. Commissioner Angelo then requested that staff present a briefing on quail at the next commission meeting. Commissioner Idsal then asked if the opening day of quail season could be staggered from north to south. Mr. Cooke related that the department had conducted studies in the past, and that as a result of those studies, had set the season so that 90% of the quail would be large enough to satisfy 90% of the hunters. Commissioner Idsal asked if there were variations in growth and maturity in different regions of the state. Mr. Cooke responded that there was not. Mr. Cooke then continued, addressing proposals to alter proof-of-sex for turkey, the implementation of additional spring seasons for eastern wild turkey, the opening of a javelina season in Archer County, the expansion of the LAMPS program, increased bag limits and a late season for deer in the northern Edwards Plateau, increased bag limits for deer in south Texas, and a uniform opening day for deer statewide. Mr. Cooke informed the committee that staff would recommend withdrawal of a proposal to implement a receipt log on MLD properties, and apprised the committee of requests from the public to allow partial issuance of MLD permits and to allow hunters to apply MLD tags at a central location on a given property, rather than immediately upon kill. He then reviewed a proposal to split the current one-buck county area into two compartments. Commissioner Angelo asked about the nature of public opposition to the proposal. Mr. Cooke responded that some commenters felt the proposal didn’t address their particular circumstances. Mr. Cooke then introduced a proposal to allow bonus tags to be used on hunts conducted by the department on lands other than parks and wildlife management areas. Finally, Mr. Cooke addressed a proposal to expand the youth-only seasons for deer and turkey, recommending that in light of extensive public comment, the proposal be modified to include only the third weekend in January in counties where no season was still open. Commissioner Angelo asked if it was correct that the current youth season had increased the harvest of deer. Mr. Cooke replied that the department noticed an increase in license sales associated with the current youth weekend.. Commissioner Angelo then noted that he had received a substantial amount of correspondence from bow-hunters opposed to the proposed youth season, and asked if staff thought such concerns were valid. Mr. Cooke responded that bow-hunters felt very protective of the archery-only season.


The chair recognized Gene McCarty, Chief of Staff. Mr. McCarty reported that in response to a legislative mandate, the department had conducted a review of department regulations concerning fisheries and wildlife, and recommended that the regulations be readopted without change.


The chair recognized Jerry Cooke of the Wildlife Division. Mr. Cooke presented a petition for rulemaking received by the department. The petitioner requested that persons hunting by means of lawful archery equipment during the general open season be allowed to harvest deer under the provisions of the archery-only season with respect to antlerless deer.


The chair recognized Jerry Cooke of the Wildlife Division. Mr. Cooke briefed the committee on requests for regulatory changes concerning deer management received by the department from the Texas Deer Association and pending legislation involving the same issues. Mr. Cooke stated that that all of the changes requested by the Texas Deer Association could be effected by the commission in the regulations concerning Scientific Breeders, Deer Management Permits, and Permits to Trap, Transport, and Transplant Game Animals and Game Birds (Triple T). Chairman Bass asked a series of technical questions concerning population reductions and depletion. Chairman Bass then asked several questions about the nature of any appeals process to be implemented as part of the Triple T permit regulations. Chairman Bass then requested that staff proceed with publication of the proposed changes for adoption in May. Mr. Cooke proposed that the outstanding proposal affecting the Scientific Breeder Proclamation be withdrawn and re-proposed as part of a comprehensive set of deer management regulations. Chairman Bass concurred with the staff recommendation.

Phil Durocher, director of the Inland Fisheries Division, briefed the Commission on the history and latest developments concerning the largemouth bass virus. The LMB virus was first identified in South Carolina in 1995 in Santee-Cooper Lake and has been linked to 18 largemouth bass kills nationwide. As of February 2001, four have occurred in Texas. None have occurred since 1999. LMBV has been found in 14 other states besides Texas, some as far north as Michigan. TPW has become involved in a nationwide effort to learn more about this virus as there are many unknowns about the virus such as: length of time it has been present, method of transmittal, and what causes a lethal outbreak. In 2000, we sampled for the virus in bass populations from 49 reservoirs. From this survey and previous work, LMBV has been identified in 19 reservoirs in Texas. Both sexes and strains (Florida and northern) of largemouth bass can be infected. Fish population surveys done at Lake Fork and Sam Rayburn (two of the reservoirs that had LMBV fish kills) revealed no detectable differences in bass population structure before and after the kills. Angler catch rates, especially for larger bass, in both reservoirs did decline. Staff will continue monitoring for the virus and cooperating in the nationwide research effort. Commissioner Bass commented that it appears the virus is survivable. Mr. Durocher agreed and noted that so far the virus has not caused another kill on any of the reservoirs in the country where a fish kill occurred previously. Commissioner Bass also inquired about how the virus affects the bass. Loraine Fries, who is director of the department’s genetics and fish health lab in San Marcos, answered that it affects the swim bladder and does not have any impact on the reproductive organs. Mr. Durocher added that infected fish appear healthy. He also responded to a question from Commissioner Bass on the impact on our hatchery operations. The virus has been detected in some of our hatcheries. Bass produced in those hatcheries are just stocked into systems where the virus is already present. He also added that the virus can survive in water for 3 to 4 hours, and we recommend anglers disinfect their live wells when traveling from lake to lake. Commissioner Idsal asked about the persistence of the virus in the fish. Mr. Durocher said that is just one of the many unknowns about the virus.

The chair recognized Herb Kothmann of the Wildlife Division. Mr. Kothmann delineated the proposals affecting public hunting for 2001-2002, including alterations to permit requirements, the retention of application fees for invalid applications, allowing a person who has been erroneously awarded a hunt to accept the hunt but only if the person forfeits their preference points, clarification of registration procedures, and implementation of a minimum age for application for special drawn hunts. Commissioner Angelo asked what percentage of applications were invalid. Mr. Kothmann responded that the figure was approximately 5%. Mr. Kothmann then reviewed the list of hunting activities proposed for units of the state park system for 2001-2002. Chairman Bass then asked for clarification of the proposal affecting preference points. Mr. Kothmann responded that occasionally there are clerical errors that result in a person being awarded a hunt for which they did not intend to apply. Under current regulations that person automatically forfeits their preference points from previous years, and that the proposal would offer them the option of declining the hunt and keeping their preference points. Commissioner Avila inquired as to the year-to-year numbers of hunt positions available for drawn hunts.


The chair recognized Hal Osburn of the Coastal Fisheries Division. Mr. Osburn began by providing background information and data on the oyster industry in Texas and the role of the department in regulating oystering, particularly the oyster lease program. He then reviewed recommendations from the Attorney General and State Auditor that the department develop new terms and conditions for oyster leases. Mr. Osburn continued, describing the department’s outreach efforts with concerned legislators, advisory groups, and the regulated community, and reported that staff would return at a later date with specific proposals. Mr. Osburn then addressed the commercial crab fishery in Texas, providing background information and data on the crabbing industry in Texas and the historical role of the department and the legislature in regulating that activity. Mr. Osburn stated that department data indicated a continuing long-term decline in crab abundance and size, and that although effort was high, recruitment overfishing had not been detected. Mr. Osburn recommended that the crab buy-back program be accelerated and that the department deal with the issue of abandoned crab traps, offering estimates of the number of traps abandoned each year and the resultant loss to the fishery. Mr. Osburn reviewed the department’s outreach efforts with various advisory groups and stated that staff would return at a later date with specific proposals. Mr. Osburn also furnished the committee with a legislative update on pending bills that would impact the department. Commissioner Henry inquired as to recent developments in legislative riders. Andrew Sansom responded that the oyster lease rider was the result of negotiations with the industry and that the pending legislation reflected a consensus, although the same was not true of legislation affecting other commercial licenses. Mr. Sansom reflected that the department’s intent was to achieve some kind of balance and avoid harming any industry. Commissioner Angelo asked if the commission had the authority to increase oyster lease fees. Mr. Osburn replied that they did. Mr. Sansom added that the pending legislation would increase the fee in two-year increments, and that the department was continuing to have dialogue with the legislature on the subject. Commissioner Angelo asked if the department has had time to evaluate the effectiveness of degradable panels on crab traps. Mr. Osburn responded that the degradable panels seemed to work well. Commissioner Angelo asked if compliance was satisfactory. Mr. Osburn replied that quantification of compliance was speculative at best, and outlined the department’s methodology in determining an estimate. Commissioner Idsal asked about identification of crab traps. Mr. Osburn replied that although traps are required to bear identification, there was a certain amount of traps being stolen, and that others were simply lost, rather than abandoned. Chairman Bass and Commissioner Henry inquired about the department’s protocols for inspecting and seizing crab traps and legal sanctions against violators. Jack King of the Law Enforcement Division provided the requested information. Commissioner Idsal asked whether crabbers typically report lost or stolen traps. Mr. King replied that generally they did not. Commissioner Idsal then asked if it would be cumbersome to require crabbers to report lost traps. Mr. King replied that it would be problematic. Chairman Bass asked additional questions concerning enforcement activities, in particular, who was authorized to pull traps. A discussion ensued concerning the number of illegal traps present in bay systems, the manpower ramifications inherent in trying to find and seize them, and the techniques employed by persons who intend to evade compliance with the law. Mr. Osburn stated that the new authority contemplated by pending legislation would permit the department to use volunteers to find and recover unidentified crab traps. Commissioner Idsal asked about the prices that crab brought on the open market. Mr. Osburn estimated that the figure was around $2 per pound at the dock.


The chair recognized Vernon Bevill of the Wildlife Division. Mr. Bevill began by discussing a proposal to replace the 60-day season for mourning doves with a 70-day season and reduce the daily bag limit to 12 from 15. Chairman Bass expressed a desire to see what hunters thought about opening the South Zone at the same time as the Central Zone. Mr. Bevill then covered a proposal to enlarge Sandhill Crane Zone C, noting that if the proposal were approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), it would possibly necessitate a reduction in the bag limit in that zone. Chairman Bass asked about the possibility that the Service would no longer require the closure of crane seasons as a condition of implementing the snow goose conservation season. Mr. Bevill responded that the Service was in the midst of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the conservation season and that the Central Flyway Council had recommended allowing crane seasons to run their entire course, but that there had been no ruling as yet from the Service. Mr. Bevill then addressed proposals for duck and goose, noting that there was a potential for those seasons to be affected by the EIS. Mr. Bass asked about the harvest numbers for the conservation season. Mr. Bevill responded that the department was still conducting surveys for the previous year, but that the first two years exceeded one million birds.

IV. SESSION ENDS: 12:03 p.m.

Committee Agenda Item No. 1
Presenter: Andrew Sansom

Regulations Committee
Chairman's Charges
May 2001

(This item will be an oral presentation.)

Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Vernon Beville

Regulations Committee
2001-2002 Migratory Game Bird Proclamation
May 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 2.)

Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenter: Jerry Cooke

Regulations Committee
Scientific Breeder Proclamation
Deer Management Permit Proclamation
Triple T Proclamation
May 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 3.)

Committee Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: Gary Graham

Regulations Committee
Quail Decline
May 2001

I. DISCUSSION: The purpose of this briefing is to present information concerning the quail Status in Texas to the Commission. Dr. Nova Silvy, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Texas A&M University, College Station will discuss the quail decline, compare two quail survey techniques, and quantify the quail decline in Texas. Mr. Steve DeMaso, Upland Game Bird Program Leader, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin will answer commissioner’s questions from the April 2001 commission meeting, identify quail responsibilities for TPW, and give highlights of the TPW quail program. Dr. Fred Guthey, Bollenbach Chair, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater will discuss solutions for the quail decline and quail harvest management.

Committee Agenda Item No. 5
Presenter: Raenell Silcox

Regulations Committee
Aquaculture MOU
May 2001

(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 4.)

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