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TPW Commission

Work Session, February 26, 2013

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

FEBRUARY 26, 2013

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744

WORK SESSION

REPORTED BY: PAIGE SLOAN WATTS

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Good morning everyone. This special meeting of the Commission is called to order February 26th, 2013, at 10:06 a.m. Before we proceed with business in the absence of Mr. Smith, Mr. Melinchuk has a statement to make.

MR. MELINCHUK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.

Also, just a couple of minor housekeeping items. If you've got a cell phone or a mobile device, if you don't mind please put that on silent or on vibrate. And if you get a call or you want to have a conversation, please step into the hall so we can keep noise level to a minimum during the meeting.

And lastly, I would like to introduce Ms. Dawn Heikkila, our new Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Administration. This is Dawn's second day on the job. Worked very well for her to be able to be part of this Commission meeting. So welcome, Dawn.

MS. HEIKKILA: Thank you, good morning.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Good morning.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes, welcome, Dawn. Congratulations.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Would it be inappropriate to start grilling her with hard questions?

MR. MELINCHUK: Have at it.

MS. HEIKKILA: What I've told them is you can ask me anything you want. I reserve the right not to answer.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Now may be the best time.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: It won't get any better.

MR. MELINCHUK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: As an explanation for why Chairman Friedken and Carter Smith are not here today, just to let everybody know, they are down at the Capitol meeting with the House Appropriations Committee working hard on our Legislative Appropriation Request and they will join us hopefully a little bit later; so we'll start without them at Dan's request.

So the first order of business is Action Item No. 2, approval of agenda. May I have a motion?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So moved.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Motion from Commissioner Scott. Second, Commissioner Hughes. All those in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Briefing Item No. 3, Red Snapper, which is the purpose of this special meeting to discuss some recent actions that were taken by the Gulf of Mexico Management Council related to the management of Red Snapper within what is known as the Exclusive Economic Zone off Texas and with that, I will turn it over to Robin Riechers, Coastal Fisheries expert.

MR. RIECHERS: Commissioners, good morning. As Commissioner Duggins indicated, I'm Robin Riechers, Director of Coastal Fisheries and I'm going to be here to present you the agenda item regarding Red Snapper management off of Texas and throughout the Gulf, a discussion of that this morning.

To start off with that discussion, I'd first like to just kind of go over the partners and the acts that we're working with here in regards to this Federal fishery management. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council basically is an advisory body to the National Marine Fisheries Service. It was constituted by the Magnuson-Stevens Act of 1976, which created eight regional management councils throughout the United States and they basically are in charge of Federal fisheries management off those states in Federal waters. That Magnuson-Stevens Act was reauthorized in '96 and 2006 and as I understand it, is up for reauthorization again next year. National Marine Fisheries Service, as you know, is housed in NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which of course is in the Department of Commerce.

I'll tell you a little bit about the council. The council is a 17-member voting body. Each of the five state fishery Directors in the Gulf, either they serve on it or they have a proxy to serve on it. The Regional Administrator of National Marine Fisheries Service has one voting seat on that body and then there are 11 other members that are nominated by the Governors of the five states and are then appointed by the Secretary of Commerce.

To remind everyone of the difference or the inconsistency in rules that we now have in State waters as opposed to Federal waters, in our State waters -- which is our shoreline, our beachfront out to nine nautical miles, which we're going to refer some today as the TTS or the Texas Territorial Sea -- we have a four fish daily bag limit, a 15-inch minimum length limit, and inside that zone, we have a -- our season is open year-round. In Federal waters, which then goes from nine nautical miles out to 200 nautical miles, we're going to refer to that as the Exclusive Economic Zone or the EEZ. They have a two fish daily bag limit, a 16-inch minimum length limit, and as we're going to talk and discuss further today, the season length varies according to the amount of days they think it allows us to catch a certain amount of poundage.

What brings us here today was an emergency rule passed roughly three weeks ago now at the last council meeting and that motion basically granted authority to the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Administrator to shorten the season in the EEZ for states that are inconsistent with Federal rules for Red Snapper. What that does or potentially can do to Texas is it would reduce a current projected 27-day season to an estimated 11 days in the EEZ off of Texas.

Now what I want to be clear about is this rule doesn't really save or have any conservation benefits to fish as a whole. It's just going to take days that would have been caught or fish that would have been caught over here and basically move them from west to east is what it's going to do in this context. We'll explain that further as we move on a little bit, and then look at that west to east split.

For just a moment here, I'm going to go into a little bit of the stock status and some characteristics of the stock. The first thing that we kind of need to know about Red Snapper is they're very long-lived fish. They live 30 plus years. There has been some documented that are 50 years plus. They begin reaching sexual maturity around age two, which is about a 13-inch fish. By the time they're three, at least based on some recent studies, it looks like about 90 percent of them are sexually mature and certainly by the time they reach 15 and 16 inches, 100 percent of those fish appear to be sexually mature.

The other thing that is worth noting here is that these fish have a very strong site fidelity. And what I mean by that is once they go offshore and locate on a site, through tagging studies done in both the eastern and western Gulf, basically they don't move very far is what that means. Once they establish themselves in a site, the study off Texas shows average movement of about 10 kilometers. So they don't move very much once they decide I'm in a pretty good spot, minus hurricanes and so forth which could move them.

With the current stock assessment, which was completed in October of 2010 and SEDAR there as it's referred to, is basically the Southeast Data Assessment and Review. It's a series of meetings that we now use to do different stock assessments. There's first kind of a data meeting that collects all the data. Then there's an assessment meeting or set of meetings that go through the analysis and the runs and then there's a management overview group that looks at it at the end, but it in compilation with SEDAR 24. And basically what it found about Red Snapper in October of 2010 was that we are not overfishing, and that means that we are not fishing at a rate or at an annual rate that would lead us to an overfished stock right now.

Now, we still are in overfished condition because of the long-lived nature of this species. So we still have enough cohorts out there that have been fished at rates that were overfishing that we still haven't rebuilt the population to where we can consider it not overfished; but we are not fishing at an overfishing rate right now.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Say what you just said again.

MR. RIECHERS: The overfishing refers to an annual rate, and because we have not -- we have not been overfishing, and we're not over fishing right now. But because the fish is long-lived and there are some cohorts or many -- several of those cohorts throughout that long life span were fished at rates that were overfishing, the stock is still considered as a whole to be overfished and that's why we have a rebuilding plan that basically carries us all the way to 2032. So our projections for not overfished and overfishing, basically extend all the way out to 2032 in making that -- basically it's a biomass calculation as to whether we're overfished or not.

COMMISSIONER JONES: So you're on -- so you're on pace for the 2032 target, even though you may have been overfished in the past.

MR. RIECHERS: That's correct.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

MR. RIECHERS: That is correct.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Robin, to determine this, who does the surveys? Is it -- do we state surveys on Red Snapper or is it a federal survey or is it a combination?

MR. RIECHERS: It's a combination. Basically, you know, we provide some of them -- we provide them some of our data that we collect in concert with them and other states and then they do some studies as well that are independent of us, so.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So on the study deal then, this covers the area from Florida to Brownsville or what is the area that is covered in this whole thing?

MR. RIECHERS: Yeah. When we're talking about the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper stocks, that's exactly what we're talking about. From Florida -- from the tip of Florida to Brownsville.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: But your site fidelity means that really the fish in Texas don't go to Florida and the fish in Florida aren't coming to Texas.

MR. RIECHERS: That is correct. There's enough mixing that it's one genetic stock, but because of site fidelity -- and we will go into it in the last SEDAR assessment in 2009 and then the current one that's under way, which as I indicated here, they're going to be presenting to us here in the next few months -- they -- we have split those stocks into what we'll call management units or subregions, so that we can look at western versus eastern.

Now in looking at some of the data off of Texas, here is our coastwide catch per unit effort from our Texas Parks & Wildlife Gulf trawls. As you've got -- as you-all remember, this is the trawl work that we do. We do it consistently. It's called fishery independent data so that basically what we're doing is we're looking at the relative abundance in trends through time.

These particular fish that are caught in this trawl are what we call young-of-the-year. Mostly zeros. They're early recruits into the fishery, age zero. Some of them maybe age one. But they would be equivalent to when I talk to you-all about bag seines in regards to recruitment into the Spotted Seatrout fishery, they would be that earliest stage of fish year that you're looking at as what's going to be available for future years down the road. And as you can see here, since 1986 we're basically looking at a fourfold increase in that overall trend as we look at 2012.

Now, obviously we've had -- you know, you get into higher variation towards the end of that cycle; but you can still see that we've had the highest four years in the last, you know, ten or so years that we've ever seen on record since collecting this data. Now as we just discussed in regards to that last SEDAR assessment and the upcoming one should do this as well, but we wanted to take a look and show you what is going on between these eastern management unit and the western management unit. The little triangles are the recruits and the squares and the lines refer to the spawners. The red spawners are in the western. The red line is for the western spawners. The yellow line is for the eastern spawners. And I know this is a busy slide, but it put it up here in one succinct slide.

Basically what you can see is a magnitude of order difference when you talk about the recruits compared east to west and if you want to look a little more closely at that line regarding spawners, you see that -- just you can pick any year you want there, but we're at least double, 200 to 300 percent greater in spawners as compared to the eastern Gulf and it's widening as we get further out towards our most recent years.

Next, I'm going to briefly go into what's going on in the Texas Red Snapper fishery and some of our landing's information just to give you a flavor and a notion about how well the fishery itself is doing. One of the ways we measure that in the recreational fishery, of course, is to look at how many people achieve those higher bag limits that we have and, you know, oftentimes when we set a bag limit, people aren't achieving those bag limits. But in this particular case in the Texas Territorial Sea with our four fish bag limit, 38 percent of the people who are landing fish are achieving that bag limit. In the Exclusive Economic Zone or Federal waters, 53 percent of the people who are landing fish are achieving a two fish bag limit.

Of important note here as well is that the average landing size is increasing dramatically. Since 1983, '84, in the Texas Territorial Sea our fish has increased from about 11 inches to 20 inches as you see it there. Also in the EEZ, the overall -- since that same time frame, the average landed or the average size of the landed fish has increased from 14 inches to 22 inches.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What was that time period?

MR. RIECHERS: Since '83, '84 to now. So in 30 years, basically these fish have doubled in size in what the angler is catching and being able to bring in. Now some of that can be impacted by the minimum size limits when '83, '84 a 13-inch minimum size limit was set and, of course, we've moved it up to 16 on the rec side. It went all the way to 15 on the commercial side and is back down now at 13, so. But still of note is that we are seeing and catching and bringing back to the dock larger fish, which are indications of a stock becoming healthier.

This slide basically kind of depicts that same notion, but I just wanted to show it to you really to show you and express or allow you to see graphically that we are getting a good size distribution of fish in both Texas Territorial Sea as well as the EEZ. Basically, it's showing you there that unfortunately we do have a few people still bringing in 14-inch fish; but for the most part, our size distribution starts at 15-inch, goes all the way out to 30 inches with, you know, a fairly good distribution there and as you would expect in those deeper waters, you get some larger fish which we just talked about the average being about 2 inches larger than the TTS, average being about 22 inches in that size distribution. Again, some bringing in fish below that 16-inch start; but then a relatively good, robust size distribution across all those year classes as well.

The next thing I wanted to just show you here and we could present this in pounds or numbers, but we're presenting it in pounds here, basically showing you that the overall poundage caught from the TTS is relatively small in contribution as compared to the EEZ. Included in this is our head boat landings or our party boat, the scat cat, the wharf cat, those kind of vessels, private recreational landings as well as charter boats. And, you know, it's just noted here that the actual poundage in the TTS has gone up slightly in the last few years. We've talked about that in the past. There can be some redistribution of these stocks as they've gotten healthier in neutral waters. We certainly hear about some of that anecdotally and there could be some reporting issues there as well, which we have talked about in front of this council or in front of this Commission as well.

Lastly, we're going to get down a little bit to the heart of the matter and the season impacts that the emergency rule has us discussing. And this particular graph shows you in the last five years since 2008, that we've had a reduction in the overall days of our Federal season in length by 62 percent, which is basically was 122-day season in 2008 and it was reduced down to a season of -- actually, it was 40 days predicted when we started the season last year; but because of weather conditions in the eastern Gulf, the Regional Administrator kept the season open six additional days and those six additional days are shown here at 46 days total, but what that also did was then had us overrun our annual catch limit by 1.8 million pounds because either the prediction wasn't as accurate as it could have been or in some way the fishing pressure got greater in those six days. I'm not certain which.

The thing you see here is that, well, since 2010, we've been giving additional pounds and even in 2013 there will be about 180,000 additional pounds added to the recreational catch opportunity, if you will. But even still because of that, the predicted days fishing in the rest of the Gulf and in our EEZ if that emergency rule had not taken place would have been 27 days. So even with additional poundage added to that red bar, we would still be going down in days. And, of course, with the emergency rule we're now looking at a possibility of an 11-day season.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Robin, I've got a question here. How can you continue to cut the season length, yet your poundage that you're catching is going up? I mean that doesn't -- it doesn't just make -- the limit stays the same, too. So how are our pounds going up if the days are going down?

MR. RIECHERS: It's certainly not intuitive. That is for certain. One of the things that's going on here since 2007, we had an average fish size of about 3.3 pounds. In 2012, we had an average fish size of about 7 pounds. So part of what's happening is even though we're catching the same number of fish or possibly the same number of fish, obviously you've doubled the amount of poundage if you are catching the same amount of fish. So that's part of what's reducing these days overall.

There also can be some fishing pressure shifting, pushing earlier up into that season knowing that the days may be getting cut shorter. So there can be some compression of effort, but we believe that most of it has to do with the increase in the size of fish.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got one question. Let me get these numbers -- get these numbers correct. The total coastwide recreational poundage looks like it's -- for Texas, it's six -- 500,000 pounds; is that correct? Page 7 at the bottom. I added them together.

MR. RIECHERS: Yes, sir. That is about correct, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: But the total for the whole Gulf fishery is -- looks like it's almost 6 million pounds?

MR. RIECHERS: That -- 5.8 last year, yes, sir. We're going to have some slides here that show that in a percentage fashion coming up and it will show you that as we move through time, our percentage share has gone down.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: The poundage we're talking about is commercial and recreational or is this all recreational? Oh, this is recreational.

MR. RIECHERS: Yes. What we focused on, this fishery is split; 51 percent goes to the commercial side, and 49 percent goes to the recreational side. But because we're really dealing with the emergency rule and that discussion, we've kind of just focused on the recreational catches here. Commercial catches now are certainly getting very near their quota limit every year. They're under an IFQ system, Individual Fishing Quota system that basically allocates a certain amount to each individual and they basically can fish that 365 days a year up to that amount that they're given.

The next slide and/or slides that I want to actually bring to you is because this motion was predicated and discussed at the meeting on a perceived inequity or unfairness because of Texas and possibly Louisiana being inconsistent, I want to bring you the next two slides to show you how the span of regulation over the last years, one could argue that it's been somewhat unfair or inconsistent or inequitable to Texas.

What you see here is when you take that eastern Gulf stocks and those eastern fisheries, this is the percentage share of the overall recreational landings. Obviously, you can see there the yellow line. Mississippi basically has remained fairly flat and at a fairly low level in overall percentage of all recreational landings. You can see that the Florida landings have went from an average somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or 20 percent to as much as 40 percent in some years. You can see when we look at Alabama there, that while they've probably had an average in those early years of somewhere in 20, 25 percent, they're consistently up in that 35 to 40 percent range on many years in the overall -- their proportion of the overall landings as compared Gulfwide.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Is that commercial and recreational?

MR. RIECHERS: That's just recreational. That's just recreational. When we look at Texas and Louisiana, you can see that the regulations that had been put in place may not have favored us as well. When you specifically take Texas and I'll take the first five years of that series from 1986 to 1991, during that time frame we would have accounted for about 25 percent of the overall Gulf share. If you take the last five years of that series from 2012 going back, we did exclude 2010 because of Deepwater Horizon and we'd caught a larger share because much of the other Gulf was closed at that time; so that year we did catch a larger share. But if you exclude that, we're now at about 12 percent overall as -- for our total catches compared to the rest of the Gulf.

I might add here that if the season were to take place, we also anticipate that it will have a greater impact on those federally permitted vessels because of a previous action by the council that basically says if you own a federal permit even in the context of if you're fishing in State waters, you have to abide by the rules of that Federal permit. So if there were to be an 11-day season, basically it's going to exclude anyone who is permitted in Federal waters from fishing any of those State water days as well given the current regulation, so.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So who has to be -- who -- what boats have to have a Federal permit?

MR. RIECHERS: Both those charter boats and head boats would have to be federally permitted to be fishing in the EEZ.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So charter boats and head boats are not fishing in the State, in the territorial water, Texas Territorial Sea.

MR. RIECHERS: Either they're not, or they've managed their permits in a way where they may have a permit on one boat that's federally permitted and then they have a non-permitted vessel possibly as well. Obviously, given the impact of this or the possible impact of this, we wanted to at least do our best to give you what we felt the economic impact of this would be to the state of Texas. Now, I will caveat this analysis with we don't have an analysis that specifically has gone out and asked every Red Snapper angler what it is they spend. We just don't do our surveys in that way.

But what we have done is we've taken our on-site surveys where we collect information coming from boat ramps, as well as we send annual mail surveys out and we basically put together an analysis of what we believe this means to the state of Texas in terms of retail sales. When we looked at the status quo season of last year, 2012, that 46-day season, we estimate that the value of that season to the state of Texas was $49 million. So almost $1 million a day.

So when you anticipate that we first predicted that we would have a 27-day season, that would give us an annual retail sales of $28 million to the state of Texas, which is, of course, a reduction in $21 million from the year before. But when you actually bring that further down to an 11-day season off that 27-day season, we would be losing an additional $17 million in lost retail sales that are associated with the emergency rule since that's what we're focusing on here.

Now, again, I want to just caveat that in a couple ways and that is that what this assumes is that no fishing trips would be taken. There probably will be some substitution. But understand that if we go to an 11-day season, if we have some of those bad weather days, there may not be an opportunity for substitution. Meaning that someone might go fish for a different species.

The other notion there is there could be some shifting of effort into those days, assuming there was both the capacity to hold that effort and get it out there in charter boats, party boats, and private boats; but also that, you know, people would actually not get blown off the water in those days. So, you know, we certainly believe that this is -- it may be a maximum estimation; but, you know, it's a good faith attempt at giving you some notion of what that actual impact to the state of Texas will be.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Let me make sure I understand. So if you have a Federal license for the EEZ, you cannot also have a Texas license for the TTS on the same boat.

MR. RIECHERS: On charter boats and party boats -- no, you can have -- I'm sorry. You -- for us, what we give them is a Guide license and they could have a Guide license on the same boat. But because of the Federal rule and the concern that somehow their Federal permit would be taken away from them if they were caught in violation of that Federal permit, I would suggest that a lot of people won't risk that, even though they may hold both a Federal permit and a Guide permit. They may fish some in the TTS, but they may also fish in the EEZ.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And they don't want to get caught out in the EEZ after having fished in the TTS and they've got too many fish or whatever.

MR. RIECHERS: There's a -- if -- they have to abide by whatever bag limit the waters that they are in --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Right.

MR. RIECHERS: -- gives to them, but their concern -- because of the way the rule is written, their concern is that if they were caught in violation or even fishing, frankly, for Red Snapper in the Texas Territorial Sea and they have a Federal permit on that vessel, some people would be fearful that their Federal permit could be taken away from them.

COMMISSIONER JONES: They just need a good lawyer.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Well, you know, I would kind of argue on the -- on the -- or the value. At what point in time does it become noneconomic for these operators to even own a boat? I mean at some point if you could fish 180 days for a long time and then they cut it to 120, then you go to 80 and 46 and now you go to 11, isn't there some operator that says "Hey, I know longer can operate this business. You just put me out of business"?

MR. RIECHERS: And that certainly is one of the things as we talk about bag limits and days of fishing, at some point there can be that kind of point of no return for individuals. Certainly at the last council meeting, there was a discussion about changing that two fish bag limit to a one fish bag limit. But basically both by people who testified in front of the council and by the members of the council, that was not supported and some of the concern is that at some point from a two fish to a one fish, you know, people just won't go any more.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Kind of like the old two duck limit. You know, people just stopped hunting them for a while because it wasn't worth the effort.

MR. RIECHERS: The next couple slides, I'm going to basically kind of give you what the other Gulf states are either doing or contemplating doing as we understand it today. In Louisiana at this point in time, they have a season set that will begin March 23rd, which is the Saturday before Palm Sunday. At that -- that's just a Saturday/Sunday weekend. But then after that they go to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday except on Memorial Day and Labor Day where they're going to catch a four-day weekend on both of those.

And their season is going to be those weekend days until September 30th. And that equates -- it's going to be a three fish daily bag limit with a 16-inch minimum length limit and so the overall number of days that they're looking at fishing with that is 88 days at this point in time.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And that's proposed. That's not --

MR. RIECHERS: That is set to take effect. Unless they take action, it will go into effect.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: It will go into -- and that's the first time they've been non...

MR. RIECHERS: That's the first time they've been inconsistent, yes.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Inconsistent.

MR. RIECHERS: Florida now has proposed a 44-day season for 2013. That season runs from June 1st through July 14th. It's a two fish daily bag limit and a 16-inch minimum length limit and the final decision for this is to take place at their April meeting, which occurs the week of April 15th through the 18. It coincides with the next Gulf council meeting actually in that same week.

Now after the events of a couple weeks ago, as of last week on this day, a Tuesday afternoon, last week we were able to get up a site on our website. Basically the emergency rule and to get some public input regarding how the Texas public feels about the current emergency rule. And you can see there in a fairly short period of time we had 1,881 comments, 97 percent of those disagree with the recommended rule.

In addition to that, we've had -- or I've received direct e-mails from 24 other individuals and we've received two letters from different fishery organizations -- Saltwater Enhancement Association and the Recreational Fishing Alliance -- and those letters as well as the e-mails were all -- were 100 percent in disagreement with the recommended rule and of course some of those letters went on to speak about enforcement of the Federal rules in State waters and some of the enforcement changes that we're scoping now in our statewide hunting and fishing proclamation.

With that, that concludes the formal presentation and certainly we'll be happy to answer any and all questions.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I seem to remember from a meeting last year sometime and I don't remember exactly, but we were talking about -- y'all were explaining to us, particularly some of us new Commissioners, about how that deal worked, you know, between the Federal and the State, how the people were going out and catching them in Federal and then they're coming back saying they're catching them in the State waters because they could catch more fish and the mandate from the Fed is an unfunded one, as usual.

They don't have any law enforcement keeping an eye on it. They're basically depending on our law enforcement to do it. So it was not a problem for the boat captains to just lie and say, you know, they caught them in Federal waters rather than State or vice versa, whichever way it was they could catch the most fish. How does that issue from back then carry over into this new deal that they're trying to stick on us now?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, they are somewhat different deals. But I will say -- and we have Brandi who is available here to talk about the JEA, which is Joint Enforcement Agreement. But I think what you're referring to is you heard some testimony at the August Commission meeting/public hearing that basically spoke to that they felt there were some locations along the Texas coast where that was more problematic than others where people were basically going into the EEZ and claiming they caught those fish. When the EEZ was closed, they were claiming they had caught those fish in Texas waters.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's what it was.

MR. RIECHERS: And, of course, some of the statewide hunting and fishing -- or the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation item where we talked to y'all at your last meeting about us getting the authority to take that into State courts so that we could actually maybe do more enforcement of that, we basically have that proposed in the current statewide hunting/fishing process at this time. If there's any other question about JEA though, I will turn to Brandi and let her come and answer them.

MS. REEDER: Good morning, Mr. Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Melinchuk. My name is Brandi Reeder and I'm the Fisheries Law Administrator for Law Enforcement Division. If you have any questions regarding the JEA contract or our enforcement efforts, I am more than willing to answer those.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think that Commissioner Scott raised a good point, which is that the Department had recommended that we seek -- I think we needed Legislative authority to enforce Federal two fish a day limits in our State court system and we've been pursuing that or we are pursuing that legislation at this time, aren't we?

MS. REEDER: Well, we were pursuing two avenues. One was the rule which allowed us to change the venue essentially for violations of Federal regulations out in the EEZ that are found within State waters. So whenever they bring those products back into our State waters should we encounter those violations, the rule that we have proposed that is currently going through scoping would have enabled us to then put those cases found in State courts.

The other option was or the other avenue that we were looking at was a proposal to -- for legislation regarding if our officers, if our State officers go out into the EEZ itself and encounter state documented boats or owners of boats that reside in Texas, then those could then -- any kind of Federal regulation violations that we encounter could then be pursued in State courts. So one was to cover State waters, violations encountered in State waters. The other was to cover any regular or any violations found in Federal waters.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I think, Dick, correct me if I'm wrong, your point is I think to Robin was the council made aware of Texas going -- at least it appears to me we're going the extra length to enforce the Federal two bag -- two fish a day bag limit. Did we get any credit for that? Are any other states attempting to do that?

MR. RIECHERS: Some other states have done that in the past already, and so already have that ability through their State court systems; but that point was raised during the discussion regarding this motion.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. And then I have a -- I think it might be helpful because I'm not sure all of the Commissioners are aware of this, would you elaborate on who actually proposed the motion, spearheaded this emergency rule and discuss the first vote and the fact that there was a change, go ahead and inform everybody on that.

MR. RIECHERS: Okay, yes. The Regional Administrator of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center made the motion, the emergency rule motion. It was a motion that had come out of committee, but he redrafted it and made the motion himself in full council. The vote before lunch was basically a nine/eight vote that defeated the motion. After lunch, a member who was on the prevailing side made a motion to reconsider and when that motion to reconsider was made, two votes switched and so the motion passed ten to seven.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And when you say Regional Administrator, that's the one Federal representative on the council?

MR. RIECHERS: Yes, that's the one Federal representative.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And my next question is was any science provided by this Regional Administrator to justify an emergency rule where our rules have been inconsistent for over a decade?

MR. RIECHERS: No, other than just the simple fact that the fairness and equity discussion regarding that we're catching fish outside of the time when other states aren't allowed to catch those fish; so the fact that we're inconsistent is the reason the rule was passed.

MS. REEDER: And may I interject something for a second? Commissioner Scott, you had mentioned that we did not receive any kind of funding for our efforts to enforce Federal priorities; but that's inaccurate. For a period since about 2000, we have been in a Joint Enforcement Agreement with the Feds in which they provide us funding to help assist in the enforcement of their federal priorities, which very often match our own.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: How does that compare with what our costs actually was?

MS. REEDER: It's equitable.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Is it?

MS. REEDER: You know, we do -- we do a cost analysis for what our enforcement efforts cost us to conduct and then we are compensated based upon that and an agreed upon hours of effort depending upon the priorities. So most recently this last contract is almost 700,000 is what we were awarded financially.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: How much?

MS. REEDER: Almost 700,000. The actual value was $678,663. So I just wanted to correct that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So that's just a straight money flow from the U.S. --

MS. REEDER: It was an agreement between --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: -- Fish and Wildlife?

MS. REEDER: Between our NOAA, Office of Law Enforcement.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Right.

MS. REEDER: It's an agreement that we make through them to enforce their priorities for a certain dollar amount to cover our effort and an agreed upon hours associated with that.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's a little different.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: To follow up on that though. Isn't it correct to say that if we were to find a violation in Federal waters, we had -- currently have to refer that to the U.S. Attorney's Office and they have, experience has shown, very little interest in pursuing those cases?

MS. REEDER: Due to court dockets being overcrowded, I would say that they are selective in cases that they accept for prosecution.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And that's one of the reasons we've been pursuing the ability to pursue these in State court.

MS. REEDER: Correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Now, one other question, Robin, on the procedures that took place at the meeting. As I understand it, Louisiana's representatives joined with Texas in opposing this, along with the Fish and Wildlife representative from the State of Florida?

MR. RIECHERS: That is correct. Can I go back to your other question, the previous question regarding the inconsistency and that as well?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sure.

MR. RIECHERS: I think it is a good point that we point out here that even though we've missed and when the recreational fishery has overrun its catch threshold, we will call it, we've still not went over the overfishing mark and that's why if you remember the graph that I showed you the season length, we're adding pounds each year and we would not be able to do that if we were overfishing. So we're not overfishing, and we're still adding pounds to that recreational side. So again in that point about whether this equates emergency action, certainly there's been no overfishing that has occurred that would lead us to needing some sort of an emergency at this point in time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Is there any further discussion by the members of the Commission?

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: I've got one more question. On the commercial side, as historical catch -- so a boat gets X number of tons based on history. Is a boat restricted where they fish? So can a Florida boat come to Texas, or can a Texas boat go to Florida?

MR. RIECHERS: Yeah, those -- there's no territorial nature to those licenses, so they basically can fish throughout the entire Gulf.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So it would kind of stand to reason you go where it's easier to catch them and there's more in Texas and Louisiana than there is in the eastern Gulf, so a lot of the commercial fishing -- I guess we don't know, but a good part of the commercial fishing may be done in the western Gulf?

MR. RIECHERS: We can look at some -- and we probably do have some landings by port that we could share with you that would basically show some of that. But again, a lot of these vessels are going to take, you know, some trips that are fairly long. So there can be movement in and around the state where they leave from and as you suggest, it's all a calculation based on fuel and ice and the other costs of doing business as to how far they go.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else? Well, obviously the Commission takes this action very seriously or we wouldn't be having a special meeting and it's particularly concerning, at least to me and I think to the other members, that there appears to be no science to justify some sort of emergency action here.

That said, at this point we're going to recess pursuant to Chapter 551 of the Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, go into Executive session for the purpose of seeking legal advice under Section 551.071. So at this point, we'll recess to discuss this situation with the lawyers.

(Recess taken)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. We will now reconvene the regular session of the work session on February 26th, 2013, at 12:40 p.m. And regarding Item No. 3, Red Snapper, discuss recent actions by the Gulf of Mexico Management Council related to the management of Red Snapper within the Exclusive Economic Zone off of Texas, no further action is required at this time and this Commission has completed its -- this Committee has completed its business. Thank you.

(Meeting adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this _____ day of ______________, 2013.

_______________________________
T. Dan Friedkin, Chairman

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Ralph H. Duggins, Vice-Chairman

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Antonio Falcon, M.D., Member

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Karen J. Hixon, Member

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Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Member

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Bill Jones, Member

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Margaret Martin, Member

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S. Reed Morian, Member

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Dick Scott, Member


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS       )
COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such were reported by me or under my supervision, later reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true, and correct transcription of the original notes.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 7th day of March, 2013.

__________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2014
Firm Registration Number: 87
1016 La Posada Drive
Suite 294
Austin, Texas 78752
Job No. 107633

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