Presenter: Hal Osburn

Commission Agenda Item No. 3
2001-2002 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation
Closed Season for the Use of Crab Traps
November 2001

I. Discussion: The crab resources in Texas provide for valuable sport and commercial fisheries. Over 6 million pounds are harvested annually with a dockside value of $3.5 million. Responsibility for establishing seasons, bag limits, means and methods for taking wildlife resources, including crabs, is delegated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (TPWC) under Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 61, Uniform Wildlife Regulatory Act (Wildlife Conservation Act of 1983). The crab fishery is managed using guidelines in the Crab Fishery Management Plan adopted by the Commission in 1992. That FMP noted concerns about abandoned crab traps. It is currently estimated that tens of thousands of abandoned crab traps in coastal waters result in navigation hazards and contribute to resource depletion. Senate Bill 1410 from the 77th Texas Legislature provided the Commission new authority to establish a closed crabbing season for the purpose of removing abandoned crab traps.

Proposed changes to 31 TAC, §65.78, Crabs and Ghost Shrimp, will establish a closed season for the period February 16 – March 3, 2002 during which the use of crab traps in public waters will be prohibited. Removal of abandoned crab traps will enhance boating safety and aid in the conservation and management of crab resources.

Department staff solicited input on this issue from commercial crab fishermen, crab dealers and commercial finfish fishermen via eight outreach and scoping meetings held along the Texas Coast. Staff also consulted three times with members of the Texas Crab Advisory Committee, as well as the Crab License Review Board, and the Finfish License Review Board. The current proposal to implement specific closures to the use of crab traps along the Texas coast during February and March 2002 is the result of a synthesis of input from these meetings.

Concurrently with this proposal, and in compliance with the provisions of S.B. 1410, staff is developing strategies for the safe and timely removal and appropriate disposal of abandoned crab traps from public waters during the closed season or seasons adopted by the Commission. These activities would include the use of volunteers coastwide to assist the Department in this first trap cleanup project. Staff will review the success of this initial year’s result and provide recommendations for subsequent years of the project.

In addition, current law requires all crab traps be affixed with a gear tag which bears the name and address of the individual using the device as well as the date the traps was set out. The original intent of the gear tag was as an enforcement mechanism to encourage fishermen to run their traps regularly. Regular running of crab traps would minimize crab mortalities typically caused by ignored, lost or abandoned traps. Since implementation of limited entry in the crab fishery, which established clear trap marking systems, as well as regulatory requirements for escape rings and degradable panels, and the upcoming abandoned trap cleanup program the need to have the date marked on the gear tag has been reduced.

Proposed changes to 31TAC, §65.3, Definitions, will exempt all crab traps from the requirement to have the date placed on the gear tag. This rule change will increase the efficiency of crabbers while having little or no impact on the blue crab resources in Texas.

At the direction of the Regulations Committee, staff filed the proposed rule changes with the Texas Register which were published on October 5, 2001 issue for 30-day public comment (26 TexReg 7808). As of this writing, comments on these proposals were still being received. A complete summary of the comments will be provided at the presentation.

II. Recommendation: Staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion:

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 31 TAC §§65.3 and 65.78 (located in Exhibit A), concerning Definitions and Crabs and Ghost Shrimp as published in the October 5, 2001 issue of the Texas Register (26 TexReg 7808).”

Attachments – 2
1. Exhibit A – Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation. §65.3 (Definitions) and §65.78 (Crabs and Ghost Shrimp)
2. Exhibit B – Fiscal Note (Available upon request)

Commission Agenda Item No. 3
Exhibit A

Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation

§65.3. Definitions.

(1) – (21) (No change)

(22) Gear tag – A tag constructed of material as durable as the device to which it is attached. The gear tag must be legible, contain the name and address of the person using the device, and except for saltwater trotlines and crab traps, the date the device was set out.

(23) – (47) (No change)

§65.78. Crabs and Ghost Shrimp.

(a) (No change)

(b) Seasons. There are no closed seasons for the taking of crabs, except as listed within this section.

(c) Closed Crab Trap Season: It is unlawful to fish a crab trap in the coastal waters of the state from 12:01 am Saturday, February 16 through 12:00 midnight Sunday, March 3, 2002.

(c) (d) Places. There are no places closed for the taking of crabs, except as listed within this section.

(d) (e) Devices, means and methods. (No change)