TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, November 3, 2022


TPW Commission Meetings


November 3, 2022






CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Thursday Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting for November 3rd. We have a lot of stuff on our agenda. We have a lot of people here. So we'll try to move through this as fast as we can, but we'll also have some things that we want to celebrate early on and so that will be very special and appreciate everybody that's made the effort to come here and speak before the Commission or be awarded.

Before we get started, I'm going to take roll call of Commissioners. Aplin present.








CHAIRMAN APLIN: Very good. Thank you.

This meeting's called to order November 3rd at 9:07 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a comment to make.

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. A 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. Mr. Chairman, I'd like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

And, Mr. Chairman, if I could, I'll just build on what you said. As you noted, we have a lot of people, both inside and outside the room, that have come to the Commission Meeting.

For those that have come for the special recognitions and awards, just as a reminder, when that part of the morning is concluded, the Chairman will dismiss everybody and I suspect take a very short break so the people that don't wish to stay for the remainder of the meeting can leave and then we'll, shortly thereafter, resume the meeting.

For those of you that are here in the room and outside the room that want to speak on a particular item that the Commission will be addressing and taking action on, I'm going to respectfully remind you that you'll need to sign up outside with one of our colleagues and at the appropriate time when that item is up for consideration, the Chairman will call you forward to speak. He'll ask you to come to the podium. Please state your name and who you represent and then you'll have three minutes to addresses the Commission. We have a red light/green light system. Green means go, yellow means wind it down, and red means eject. And so if everybody can help us honor that this morning, that would be very helpful. So appreciate everybody traveling in from around the state to be with us. Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

Commissioners, as a reminder, if you'll give us your name before you speak and speak slowly for the court reporter.

Before we proceed, I want to -- I'll make an announcement to the Commission that Action Item No. 1, Electric Bicycle Use on State Park Trails, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes has been withdrawn from today's agenda. So we will not be discussing or voting on that.

First order of business is approval of the minutes from the August 25th, 2022, that have been distributed. I'll need a motion and a second.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Scott and Foster. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Next, approval of minutes from the Commission Meeting held October 5th, which have already been distributed. Same thing, a motion and a second.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell makes a motion.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Patton second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Next is the acknowledgment of list of donations, which have been distributed. This is always an easy one accepting donations. So I'll -- I hope to get a motion and second from Commissioners.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Scott so moved.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Galo second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? I'd like to say we're always very, very appreciative of the efforts that are made for the groups and the people that donate to this Agency and for our mission. It's always greatly, greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Next we're going to do consideration of contracts, which have also been distributed. Same thing, a motion and a second from a Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell makes a motion.




CHAIRMAN APLIN: All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

We're going to do special recognitions, retirements, and service award presentations. This is always a fun part of the meeting. The retirements not so much a fun part, but it's also an opportunity to acknowledge and recognize, which is always very special. So Mr. Carter Smith is going to make the presentations.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, my name is Carter Smith. Good morning. We got a lot of things to celebrate today. The first one is going to be our K-9 team. I think we're all fixing to learn if Dee's plan or the dogs' plans prevail. But before we commission our six new K-9 partners, just a little bit about this program for our new Commissioners. We started this back in 2013 thanks to the support of the Parks and Wildlife Foundation and these K-9 dogs have been indispensable to our mission. You can imagine how they have proved their merit on search and rescue and evidence recovery and narcotics and wildlife detection, cadaver recovery. They've just been extraordinary support for our game wardens and other law enforcement agencies across the -- across the state and really across the -- across the country.

So we've got some very excited dogs and so clearly we're going to have to move through this quickly, Christy. Here's what we're going to do. We're going to call out each dog and their handler, ask them to come up, and then we'll place their collar on them formally and then after we've done all of that, we're going to invite all the Commissioners to come down from the dais and take a picture with your K-9 officers. So wait patiently, if you -- if you will.

We're going to start off with Tito. Tito's a four-year-old Jagdterrier. Game warden handler, of course, Lieutenant Kevin Winters who you met and saw yesterday. Tito is certified in search and rescue, evidence article recovery, and tracking. And so, Tito, all right.

(Collar placed on Tito)

MR. SMITH: All right. We're off to a good start. Not sure I would have predicted that, Kevin. So -- no, you've done good, my friend.

Our next one is K-9 Jake. He's a lab. David McMillen is our game warden handler. He was awarded the Top Wildlife Dog from the North American Police Working Dog Association and cert -- and is certified in resource detection, search and rescue, and tracking. And so, David and Jake, please come forward, so. All right.

(Collar placed on Jake)

MR. SMITH: Okay. All right. Skye is now up, Derek. So Skye is a female Labrador retriever. She's certified in firearm's detection, search and rescues, and is trained to locate firearm evidence, including shell casings, projectiles, smokeless powder, human tracking, and off-lead search and rescue. And so, Derek, please bring Skye forward.

(Collar placed on Skye)

MR. SMITH: All right, Izzy. All right, Royce. All right. Izzy is a two-year-old lab. She's certified wildlife detection. She's specifically trained to detect odors of Speckled trout, Red snapper, oysters, shark fin, and doves. And so, Izzy. All right.

(Collar placed on Izzy)

MR. SMITH: You've herded people all these years, Chase. So you're doing pretty well with dogs. So not -- not bad.

All right, all right. So our next one Lola, Scott. Okay. So K-9 Lola, she's a Labrador retriever. Her game warden handler is Scott Kirkpatrick and Lola is certified in search and rescue and trailing and articles. And so, Scott, Lola, all right.

(Collar placed on Lola)

MR. SMITH: All right. K-9 Mae, Isaac, all right. So K-9 Mae, she's a Labrador retriever. Certified in search and rescue, article evidence recovery, tracking, and narcotics detection. And so, Mae, all right.

(Collar placed on Mae)

MR. SMITH: All right. So let's get the Commissioners down and we'll get a picture with everybody. So y'all think we can pull this off?

(Photographs taken and round of applause)

MR. SMITH: Okay, next round. So we commissioned six new dogs, but we're also going to celebrate the service and retirement of ten today and so going to thank them for their extraordinary service to this Agency.

Our first dog is K-9 Ruger. He was one of our original dogs. Perhaps the most photographed dog on the planet, Christy. Ten-year-old lab, certified in search and rescue, evidence article recovery, tracking, collapsed building searches, and narcotics. Ruger was just a rock star as we started this program and helped on so many issues and cases, not only locally but really all across the state. And, Christy, I think just set the -- set the stage really for this wonderful program.

As you can tell, Ruger likes to ham it up. Never met a stranger and still searching for something. I don't think you'll find anything on the Commissioners. I don't think. Let me qualify that. I wanted to remind them yesterday that dais is not a confessional booth. And so -- so -- but Ruger's had a wonderful, wonderful tenure.

And Christy is our captain who oversees all of this K-9 program. Awfully proud of her leadership and the team. Christy, you've done an extraordinary job and they have been indispensable to our work. And so, ladies and gentlemen, let's celebrate Ruger's retirement. So we've got a shadow box for you, Christy, too to put articles in it.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Well, our next one, this is a little sad actually. Cash was one of our dogs. A ten-year-old lab, worked with our game warden Marcus Vela. Unfortunately Cash died in the spring of this year, but we had many years with him. He was part of the team since 2013. Was certified in search and rescue and evidence article recovery and narcotics and a wide variety of the things.

Cash worked all over the state and candidly was called all across the country because of his expertise and service. As Marcus will tell you, his favorite spot on earth though was South Padre Island and loved the water and loved going into the Gulf. When he retired in 2019 -- I guess it was, Marcus -- he was a faithful lap dog and made sure and tested every one of his smoked briskets and a pretty good taster I gather. And so, Marcus, I wish Cash was here with us; but we want to celebrate him and celebrate you, so.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next dog is K-9 Justin. And Justin, his game warden handler is John Thorne and Justin was named in honor of fallen game warden Justin Hurst who was shot and killed by a poacher in 2007 and a dear friend of John and so many across the Agency.

Justin has had an extraordinary career. He was trained up in Utah with our first class of dogs. Really outstanding in narcotics detection, finding lost criminals, people that were lost outside, concealed weapons, very popular at schools. He's going to retire and stay with John there in Freestone County and today we're proud to recognize K-9 Justin for his ten years of service. So, John, Justin, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Well, you may recall that we just commissioned Tito. Tito's a Jagdterrier and Kevin Winters is his game warden handler and unfortunately Tito is going to have to be retired because of medical service; but really in five short months, Tito made an incredible difference. You can tell the smallest of stature, but perhaps the biggest in heart and spirit.

And wonderful a statistic here that Tito was deployed 18 times looking for suspects that had run away or lost persons and recovered over 42 individuals in those 18 deployments and so earned his keep in a big way. We're going to miss him, but I know he's in good hands with Kevin and his family. And so, ladies and gentlemen, let's thank Tito for his services, so.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Okay. Our next one, K-9 Woodrow. Ten-year-old Labrador retriever, game warden handler Derek Nalls. Certified in narcotics detection, human trafficking -- or tracking -- off-lead search and rescue and article search. And just like his name suggests, Woodrow, he's independent, maybe a little stubborn; but more than earned his keep, Derek, all across the state.

Made a terrific case with Derek when Woodrow recovered a rifle that somebody had tried to hide after shooting a deer up at Caprock Canyon State Park. Recovered a pistol that was used in a homicide investigation that somebody was trying to hide. Helped recover almost a half a million dollars in illegally begotten cash. Recovered runaway juveniles, an elderly gentlemen with dementia that had wandered away and was in danger and so Woodrow has just been a wonderful, wonderful addition to this Department. Ten years of great service, let's honor him Derek. So please come up.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next dog is K-9 Rusty. He's a ten-year-old lab. Royce Ilse is his game warden handler. Been certified in narcotics detection, article search, human tracking, off-lead search and rescue. Royce has had Rusty work all over the state, Brownsville to Marfa to Huntsville. Loves being on a boat out in the Laguna Madre where Royce has been stationed. Found folks all over the brush country that have tried to hide from him to no avail. Made a wonderful recovery of a little girl that went missing in the middle of the night and but for the heroic actions and skills of Rusty, who knows what would have happened. So we're awfully proud of Rusty and his service to the Department, Royce. So thank you very much.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: All right. Our next K-9, Ray, Skinny Ray. Ten-year-old lab, game warden handler Scott Kirkpatrick. Certified in search and rescue and tracking and trailing, article recovery, building searches, and narcotics. Very little skinny about Skinny Ray. He's been a great addition to the law enforcement community. I know Scott has worked with Ray on many local and state and federal cases. Has a terrific, terrific work ethic. More than earned his retirement.

And I gather, Scott, you're promoting him to head of the ranch security, just like Hank the cow dog. So -- and so kudos to Ray. So let's thank him for his service.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: All right. K-9 Turbo, ten-year-old lab, game warden handler Isaac Ruiz. Certified in search and rescue, article detection recovery, tracking, collapsed building searches, narcotics detection. And Turbo has worked on every county on the border there with Isaac. Loves to be on display at outdoor related events, whether it's the Game Wardens Operation Outdoors or the Nights Out deal that we celebrate in communities everywhere, career days, just been a wonderful ambassador for this Department.

Also played a role, I gather, in how you met your wife. So very, very nice. So let's honor Turbo for his wonderful service.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: All right. K-9 Bosch, Joni Owen is the game warden handler. Bosch is retiring. Eight-year-old German shepherd. Certified in human remains and cadaver detection. Bosch has had a very storied career helping to locate missing persons and sometimes those who have passed away and Bosch has just done an extraordinary job helping to bring important closure to families all over our state.

Bosch has had a tough duty. Been injured multiple times. Always come back full of vigor. It's just been extraordinary and do anything for a toy, as you can see, Joni. And so we're proud to celebrates K-9 Bosch for his service. And so thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: I think they've got their own plan, Dee. That's for sure.

Okay. I think this is the last -- is this the last one? Blitz?

Okay, yeah, Sam Shanafelt. So K-9 Blitz, 11-year-old black lab, game warden handler Sam Shanafelt and certified wildlife detection, black powder, search and rescue, evidence article recovery, tracking, collapsed building. Our first wildlife detection K-9. So trained to sniff out, you know, doves that somebody tried to hide or a deer that somebody stashed and Blitz has just had an extraordinary career with search and recuses and rescues and we're awfully proud of his service and so let's honor Blitz today and so thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Those the K-9s? We got the dogs? Okay, okay. All right, all right. Yeah, that was fun, y'all.

One of the nice things for a day like today is when we have a chance to recognize colleagues for awards that they receive by others and, of course, we love it when others in the community recognize our colleagues for their extraordinary service, their dedication, their heroic action.

Every year the Southeast Texas Chapter -- so think Houston and Beaumont -- the Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving honors officers for their herculean efforts in helping to stem DWI and BWI related cases and certainly as you think about the work of our game wardens patrolling Galveston and Trinity Bays and the Trinity River and Clear Lake and Lake Houston and all those waterbodies, there's a lot that goes on there that our wardens have to patrol to keep folks safe out on the water and so a real honor today to celebrate this award from the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Chapter there in Southeast Texas, who along with the Harris County District Attorney's Office is honoring game wardens from our Houston and Beaumont districts and so awfully proud of Major Tanuz, Captain Weaver, Captain Hall for their colleagues.

Let me read out the colleagues from Houston and Beaumont that received this honor and when I call your name, if y'all would all come forward, as well as the Major and Captains for a picture. Jordan Bagwell out of the Houston district, Hennie Volschenk, Tyler Zaruba, Jeff Putnam, and Vinicius Mathias. And then out of the Beaumont district, Jamal Allen and Josh Sako. And so let's give these colleagues a big round of applause for their extraordinary service. So thank y'all.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: One of the new programs that Colonel Jones started was a Game Warden of the Year Program and that was an effort by the Law Enforcement leadership team to recognize really a game warden that they felt just went above and beyond in terms of the service and their engagement with the community and among this Type A triple plus personality group of game wardens, that's a pretty big feat to be selected for that honor. And this year, our 2022 Game Warden of the year is Bo Hancock and a wonderful choice.

Bo is stationed out in the big country in Brewster and Presido Counties. Has a bachelor and master's degree. Was in the Air Force for ten years from 2004 to 2014 and when he graduated from the Game Warden Academy, he was sent out to Alpine and Marfa to work the big ranch country and the border in Far West Texas. He's been a fabulous, just kind of one of those consummate team members who's helped with anything and everything not only in his Far West Texas district, but really across the state. He's a master police officer. He's TCOLE certified in use of force. He's been a member of our drone team. Part of our critical incident team in terms of providing emotional support for colleagues who go through some of the horrific things that our game wardens and park police officers have to endure.

He coordinated our critical incident response there in Uvalde to help provide support to officers and families after that horrific, horrific event. And he's been a mainstay in working with our state park police officers down like at Big Bend Ranch when we have lost hikers and others that get lost out in that country and need help.

Bo's been very active in the community locally, helping with the 4-H programs and Kid Fish related efforts. He's a field training officer, so he's a mentor to new wardens that are starting so they have a chance to learn under his kind of direction and work ethic and his value set. He does all that while he and his wife are proudly raising three kids locally and we're awful proud of Bo for our Game Warden of the Year resignation -- or recognition. Not resignation, Bo. Sorry. That was really going to be a surprise, wasn't it? So, Bo, please come forward.

Colonel Jones, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: So this was a big year for our Hunter Education Program and our coordinator of that program Steve Hall could certainly tell you all about it; but its the 50th anniversary, as y'all know, that we've celebrated and it's been ground-breaking in terms of what that has meant to helping to educate new hunters and shooters about the outdoors and safe and legal, responsible, ethical hunting.

Since that program was enacted early on in partnership with the National Rifle Association and then formally authorized by the Legislature as we continue to certify and educate more students, you know, the number of hunting accidents has just gone down proportionally. It's just been phenomenal.

And one of the great ways in which it's carried out is a series of hunter ed volunteers all across the state that help to train and teach students in the out of doors and 800 of those are teachers. They're ag science teachers. They're outdoor education related teachers. And so students that want to learn about how to hunt and safely participate in that have a chance to take a hunter ed course, again, through one of their local teachers. And today, we're selling -- or celebrating -- again, I'm getting a little tongue-tied up here -- the 1.5 millionth hunter ed student Austin Zurek.

Austin is from Midlothian. Brian Moss was his hunter ed instructor. And Austin is here with his mom. Brian, the teacher, is here with us, as is Steve, Steve Hall, and our Hunter Education Association President Debra Ferrell and in recognition of this accomplishment and milestone, the Henry Rifle Company has donated two .22 caliber commemorative rifles to give Austin and Brian. And so let's celebrate this milestone and this wonderful program. And so, Austin and Brian and company, if y'all would come forward so we can take a picture, please. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Okay. Chairman, no retirements. So that's good. Nobody's leaving. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I'm certainly going to put that caveat on this first one. So the big boss Dee Halliburton, 35 years of service. She -- yes.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: She pedaled her little bicycle from Giddings her to start. And so I didn't know this. Dee was over in the warehouse and so she was in charge of the motor pool program. So if you needed a vehicle at headquarters, you had to ask Dee. So she started wielding power and influence at an early stage, to say the -- say the least. She's had a wonderful meteoric career really as you think about it. And from the motor pool, she came up, actually worked in the executive office, and then became the Executive Assistant for Larry McKinney when he was over our Resource Protection Division and then she was the Executive Assistant for our Inland and Coastal Fisheries related divisions, riding herd on the likes of Robin Riechers and Craig Bonds and the likes of those. And then in 2013, she came back to the executive office to serve in her role where she works with all of you and your colleagues on a daily basis and she's been such a gift to this Agency.

She's worked under 54 Commissioners. She's now going to have to break in not the first, not the second, not the third, but the fourth Executive Director. God bless her. Yeah. So Saint Peter is just going to wave her through. And what do you say about Dee Halliburton? A wonderful giver, the consummate public servant. "No" is not in her vocabulary. When somebody calls, they want to talk to Dee because they know it's going to get done and they know it's going to get done promptly. She is just, again, such a wonderful servant. She solves every problem. She knows where all the bodies are buried and where you can get anything signed or fixed or corrected at all hours of the day or night, weekday or weeknight, holiday or non-holiday.

And as Commissioner Patton I think famously said, when I announced that I would be departing, he said, "I'm not worried about Carter. I'm worried about Dee." And I think that pretty well sums up everybody's sentiments about Dee Halliburton.

And on just a personal note, she's just been such a wonderful gift to me and, David, I know you'll find that way to her. She saved me from myself more times than I care to count.

And, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honor to recognize our dear friend and colleague Dee Halliburton, 35 years of service.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague Mike Miller, wildlife biologist. Started out with the Department 25 years ago up in the panhandle and one of his first projects, Rodney, was working with the crew -- where's Rodney? I should know where you're sitting by now -- was trapping the bison, the Goodnight herd off the JA Ranch to take them to Caprock Canyon State Park. So that was the last remnant of the wild bison herd in the state and so Mike and his colleagues were tasked with that roundup. You could probably only imagine what a rodeo that must have been.

Mike worked on turkeys, and prairie chickens, and deer and prairie dogs and playa lakes up in the panhandle and then moved down to Stephenville as a wildlife diversity biologist and a technical guidance biologist in the cross timbers, working with wildlife management associations and landowners. And I remember when I came back to the Department back in 2008, early on was invited to a Wildlife Management Association meeting there in the little community of Starr at the firehouse and Mike was there and there were hundreds of landowners and they were all just all around Mike just soaking up everything he had to share. It was really a wonderful sign of the respect and the affection that he, as a biologist, had with his landowner partners.

Mike in 2017 was promoted to our district biologist in Kerrville and so he oversees all the of our biologists that work out of that Hill Country area and so working with private landowners on a wide variety of game and nongame and habitat management related things and we're proud to honor Mike for 25 years of service. And so, Mike, please come forward. Mike.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Captain Ryan Hall out of Beaumont. Ryan's a second generation game warden. It's fun. We've got a lot of these multigenerational Parks and Wildlife employees. Grew up over there in Livingston in Polk County under the shadow of his dad who was a game warden. Went on to serve in the Army. Got a bachelor's there at Stephen F. Austin and then went down to the southeast coast there in Orange County and worked the Neches and the Sabine and the marshes down in that part of the world. And at some point in his career, he actually went over to Polk County where he was raised and worked Lake Livingston and all of the big timber company leases and then was promoted to lieutenant and left the pineywoods for the high plains and served three years up there in our Lubbock law enforcement office. Had a little separation disorder from the trees and a few years ago, the captain's position became open in Beaumont and Ryan was promoted to be our captain out of that Beaumont office and you had a chance to see a couple of the officers that work under his command that we're honored today by the Mothers Against Drunk Driving. And we're honored to be able honor Ryan for his 20 years service to this Department, Game Warden Captain Ryan Hall. Ryan, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We've got another colleague from our Inland Fisheries team, one of our fisheries biologists, Tom Hungerford. Tom started with us 20 years ago. Was stationed out -- up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where he's been his entire career. Played a huge role in the fisheries related management and research and monitoring at, you know, Lewisville and Ray Roberts and Eagle Mountain Lake and all the big public waterbodies that are so popular from a recreational fishing and boating perspective.

Tom is known for contributing to a lot of our scholarly and scientific related research that our Inland Fisheries team participate in. Very involved in helping to get kids into the out of doors and so just lives and breathes our mission. Has been a wonderful representative and scientist and biologist and ambassador for us up in the metroplex area and so proud today to honor Tom Hungerford, 20 years of service to this Department. Tom, please come forward, so.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Lieutenant Rachel Kellner. Rachel has been with us 20 years as a game warden. She was one of our interns while she was a student at Texas A&M.

(Round of whoops)

MR. SMITH: Thank you. We've still got a few Aggies around here. Not many. Pretty quiet.

So Rachel graduated from the mother ship over there in College Station. Went through the Game Warden Academy and was stationed out of Uvalde for 17 years and Rachel was known far and wide by landowners and hunters in that area. She was a fixture patrolling her beloved Nueces and Frio Rivers. Any dove hunter that came through Uvalde I promise you met Rachel at some point or another during their time there. Just a wonderful ambassador for us on the law enforcement related side.

She also with the Chamber of Commerce and some of the economic development folks there in Uvalde launched this wonderful event called "Women who Wander" and it was a weekend-long event. 600 women would come in for an emersion into the out of doors. The ladies were from 20 to 70 and they would go up near Garner State Park on the Frio. They'd have a series of 20 or 30 outdoor activities. They learned about riflery and archery and kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding and hiking up Old Baldy and I think maybe drinking a little wine, but it was a wonderful education and outreach event that she started and the community was so, so proud of that and she her husband Charley and their kids were a fixture there.

She was promoted to our Lieutenant Recruiter for the Game Warden Academy and so Rachel's really in charge of our recruitment related efforts and career development stuff for our game warden team and really, really proud of her longstanding leadership for this Department. Twenty years of service, Rachel Kellner. Rachel, so please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Okay. Last but not least, Dana Lagarde. Dana's been with us 20 years and y'all have had a chance to meet Dana and Dan Reese with our Local Parks related team and Recreation Grants Program and it all came naturally to Dana. She grew up with a great love of the outdoors, you know, fishing and camping and boating and hiking. She was a first generation college student in her family, which I think is a wonderful distinction there at Iowa State.

She came to work for the Department in 2002 to run our co-op program and as y'all will recall, that's our grant program that goes to nonprofits to help get underserved audiences and communities into the out of doors and it does so much good around the -- around the state. Dana was promoted back in 2010 to run our Local Parks Grant Program and obviously the Commission has a chance every year to be able to preside over the granting of those gifts to communities all around our state, big and small, to help acquire and develop parks around our state.

And then when Tim Hogsett retired, Dana was promoted to oversee all of our recreational grant programs. So think boating access, think trails, think our shooting range related grants and our local park related grants. And she and her team just do a phenomenal job helping to promote our mission, get resources out to communities and nonprofits to serve, you know, Texans wherever they are, wherever they may be, however they want to get into the out of doors and awfully proud of her service and leadership. Twenty years of service, Dana Lagarde. Dana, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I think that concludes my presentation. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter. And it's a privilege to recognize and honor people that have been here, special things they've done for this Agency.

Now we're going to take a brief moment and we're going to recognize Carter's tenure here. Fifteen years with this wonderful Agency. And so we're going to recognize that and then we're also going to celebrate his pending retirement.

It's -- Carter came to me and said that he felt like he's done his duty here and he's ready for the next stage of his life and although I was reluctant to accept it, now we've moved on and we're going to celebrate it. I don't even know how to put in words what Carter has done for this Agency, for this state, for all these people. And everyone here understands that.

So, Carter, I want to thank you for the love that you have of our resource, of state, of all the people. It is just -- just incredible. And so we -- this will be Carter's last meeting as Executive Director for Texas Parks and Wildlife and so I know that that is a moment for all of us. But you've done a yeoman's job at leading this Agency during your entire tenure here.

And so if you'll come up here, we want to recognize Mr. Carter Smith. Please, all the Commissioners.

(Round of applause and photographs)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. I thank everyone for being here for the celebrations and it started with a lot of fun with the dogs and carried through from there. We just -- everyone at this Commission just really appreciates the commitment that you-all have to this Agency and to our mission and it's just -- it doesn't go unnoticed. Thank you very much.

At this time, I want to let everyone in the audience know that you're welcome to stay obviously for the remainder of the meeting; but if anyone cares to leave, it would be a good time to do it. We're about to get into the meat of the agenda and let's just say it's going to take a while. So if anybody wants to leave, this would a unique opportunity and then -- then we'll move right on and I think we'll just let all the Commissioners take a few minutes break while people can leave. Thank you.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, everyone. Thank you. A little short break there. Now we're going to get started. We have a lot to do today. We're going to do Action -- I'm going to remind everybody Action Item 1 has been withdrawn.

Action Item 2 is the Aerial Wildlife Management Permit Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Stormy, welcome. Good morning.

MR. KING: Good morning, Chairman, Commission, everyone. For the record, I'm Stormy King, Assistant Commander of Wildlife Enforcement for the Law Enforcement Division. I'm here today to revisit a proposal to amend aerial wildlife management permit regulations regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, or drones.

As discussed earlier during staff's request to publish these proposed changes for public comment during the August meeting, the availability of both UAVs and thermal cameras to the general public has increased significantly over the last few years. The use of these products can be a very effective method in the control of feral hogs and the damage associated with their depredation, particularly at night when they are most active. Current regulations prohibit any activity involving take under an aerial wildlife management permit from occurring at night, which is defined as between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise.

The amendments proposed by staff would specifically allow the use of UAVs to locate feral hogs at night for take by gunners on the ground. The amendments would not allow the take from any drone-mounted weapon systems, nor would they apply to any other species.

As of a few minutes ago, the Department has still received input from a total of 65 individuals by online comment. 51 percent are in complete agreement with the proposal, while 37 percent completely disagree. 12 percent disagreed on a specific issue. Of the 65 respondents, 37 provided actual written comment. The most common theme among these in opposition which were germane to the proposal, mentioned concerns that it would legalize the use of drone-mounted weapons and that it would increase the likelihood of overflight over others property to hunt with drones. There were also several comments addressing concerns with fair chase and hunting ethics.

That concludes the presentation. With that, staff recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt amendments to 31 Texas Administrative Code Subsections 65.151 and 65.152 concerning permits for aerial management of wildlife and exotic species, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the September 16th, 2022, issue of the Texas Register.

I'm happy to address any questions at this time if there should be any.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Stormy.

Commissioners, you got any questions for Stormy? If not, I'll open it up for anyone in the audience that would like to speak. Commissioners, any questions, comments?

Seeing none, is there anyone in the audience that would like to speak on this matter?

I have no one signed up to call in. So I'll accept a motion and a second from Commissioners for approval.




CHAIRMAN APLIN: Rowling second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you, Stormy.

Action Item No. 3, Williamson County Regional Habitat Conservation Plan Citizen Advisory Committee and Biological Advisory Team, Appointment of Members and Delegation of Appointment Authority to the Executive Director. Good morning, Richard.

MR. HEILBRUN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Richard Heilbrun, Wildlife Diversity Program Director. This morning I'm addressing a request from Williamson County to amend a permit they received from the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2018. This will be a permit developed between Williamson County and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Our state codes require that we get involved to guide the conversation on two different committees.

When a regional habitat conservation plan is being developed, they must form a citizens advisory committee and a biological advisory team. Our Chapter 83 requires the Commission to appoint representatives to both of those committees. This regional habitat conservation plan will allow Williamson County to continue economic development and simultaneously preserve wildlife habitat as mitigation. With this process, they're issued an umbrella permit that they then issue to developers in exchange for that mitigation.

The citizens advisory committee assists the local government entity in preparing the plan. It's made up of citizens, landowners, partners, and at least one member appointed by you. They must also appoint a biological advisory team to assist them in calculating harm to the species to be covered by the plan and in determining the size and configuration of preserves for those species. The Commission must appoint the presiding officer of this team.

The applicants have requested that you expediently appoint representatives which consist of one member to the citizens committee and one member to the biological team with subject matter expertise in one or more of the covered species or with expertise in the development of the plan. The applicants would like to amend their permit to include these additional covered species.

Staff recommends the Commission appoint the following Parks and Wildlife staff: Derrick Wolter to serve on the citizens advisory committee, Dr. Elizabeth Bates to serve as the presiding officer of the biological team, and Dr. Paul Crump to serve on the biological advisory team as a subject matter expert on three of the six species they'd like to add that I just showed you. And finally, that the Commission delegate appointment authority for the RHCP to the Executive Director to simplify and shorten the appointment process to seat committee members and avoid lengthy vacancy periods if one or more of these needs to be replaced.

In conclusion, staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission appoint conservation initiative specialist Dr. Elizabeth Bates of the Wildlife Division to serve as the presiding officer of, and herpetologist Dr. Paul Crump of the Wildlife Division to serve as an additional member of the Williamson County RHCP BAT and appoint senior biologist Derrick Wolter of the Wildlife Division to serve as a representative of the Williamson County RHCP citizens advisory committee and further authorizes the Executive Director to appoint future members to these teams for the Williamson County RHCP.

That concludes my presentation, and I'm happy to entertain any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Richard.

Commissioners, any questions for Richard?

I have no one registered to speak. Is there anyone in the audience that would like to speak on this matter?

Seeing none, I'll take a motion and a second.




CHAIRMAN APLIN: Bell second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you.

Action Item 4, Statewide Oyster Fishery Proclamation, Closure of Oyster Reef Areas and Temporary Closure of Oyster Restoration Areas in Galveston Bay, San Antonio Bay, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Mr. Robin Riechers. Good morning, Robin.

MR. RIECHERS: Good morning. For the record, my name is Robin Riechers, Director of Coastal Fisheries and, again, I'm here to present to you a proposed adoption for the oyster fishery proclamation.

Certainly as we covered this in granularity in detail yesterday, I'm going to not cover it quite in that detail as we go through this, knowing that we do have a lot of individuals who want to speak on this item.

So yesterday as we talked about this, we're trying to contextualize where we are with fishery, I talked to you about the Chesapeake Bay and, of course, the collapse of the Chesapeake Bay and how that has shifted the eastern oyster demand basically from that Atlantic seaboard over into our Gulf of Mexico and then we also talked about the challenges that the other Gulf states had and, of course, how that might also be putting further pressure and demand for product out of this Texas -- or out of our Texas fishery.

Then I also updated you unfortunately on the November 1st openings as we used our metric trying to determine what was going to be open and closed and indicated to you that unfortunately really only one area had met the metric for reopening; but then the Department, working with the executive office and the Chairman, we did start looking at other ways to possibly get some additional areas open and we ended up being able to open four other additional areas. And when I say that, that's five now and then there's four that basically remained open that had de minimis or no landings. So we did still open up the season with the smallest amount of area available and I might add that one of those areas, Texas 19, closed last night at midnight based on Department of State Health Services based on the rain fall they had had up in that watershed. It'll reopen at some point, but they'll have to test before it reopens again.

So next, we're really going to get into the heart of the proposal and it really is the three bay closure -- the Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bay -- and then those temporary closures that I discussed with you yesterday that occur in San Antonio Bay, Galveston Bay, and then also in Trinity Bay inside the Galveston Bay complex.

We're going to go right into the three bay closure. And, of course, as we've talked about this several times now, you know, this three bay closure really contains -- this area contains ecologically important and sensitive area. It's nursery habitat for fish and invertebrates. It's near Cedar Bayou tidal fish pass. It's ringed by salt marsh and seagrass and all those things together create a really ecologically valuable area. It provides a lot ecological services in terms of wave attenuation, erosion protection, as well as water filtration. What we've seen in that area too is a tremendous increased harvest pressure and that may be -- is occurring for several reasons. As we well know, we've had flooding events that have caused other areas to close down or to have difficulties in populations. We've had our hurricanes. We've had our drought. All of those things put pressure on this fishery resource in addition to harvest.

Again, we talked about the area and I just show this so that you can really get a picture of how that area is ringed and with that -- with those ecologically valuable other habitats as well. The red actually marks the delineation of the closure area. The brown is the oyster habitat. The kind of green shows you that salt marsh and then the yellow shows you the seagrass that is in that entire area and basically fringes that entire area and then, of course, the very valuable Cedar Bayou fish pass which is so ecologically important in that area which is allowing that ingress and egress of Gulf saltwater coming into that area, providing extremely valuable nursery habitat and biodiversity that creates really a healthy ecosystem there.

So next we turn to that harvest pressure as we talked about before. This area makes up about 2,100 total acres. It equates to about 2.8 percent of our overall coast-wide oyster habitat. From -- in 2019 through '21, it equated for about 9.6 percent of our coast-wide landings; but as we discussed in August, when we closed out the 2022 year, it equated for over 30 percent of our coast-wide landings and that's obviously putting a lot of fishing pressure in that fairly small area when we think about it representing only 2.8 percent of the coast-wide habitat.

As we looked at this graph yesterday, I remember pointing out to you that certainly when you look at those early years prior to 2016, basically you can see relatively low numbers of vessels fishing in this area. This is vessels fishing in the Mesquite Bay area where it's a complex in and of itself as far as the Department of State Health Services reporting and so we can clearly see how many vessels are reporting in that area or the number of reports that we get. After that, you see that peak in 2017 and, of course, many of you know some of the actions we took in 2017 and since that time you can see that relatively high harvest fishing pressure there with the record being over 140 vessels when we closed out 2022.

As we talked yesterday obviously and it is a good thing that sacks actually mirror the number of vessels because it does mean people were in there catching oysters, but unfortunately it does show that same trend basically which is that relatively low pressure until 2015, relatively small number of sacks being landed from that area; but then after that period of time, you can see that extremely high number of sacks basically. The highest being there in 2017, but nearing that again in 2022.

We do know and certainly understand that because of that -- those landings that I just presented to you, being over 10 percent of the overall landings, this is a valuable area for direct X vessel value to the commercial fishery. It basically equates to a little over 2.5 million dollars in direct X vessel value. Carlos and Ayres, as I've told you before, are basically proportioned out by the amount of oyster habitat in those larger zones because that's not a reporting area in and of itself. And I do want to point out again that even though those vessels over there account -- 71, 71, and 112 -- that's -- we also had to partition the vessels out in Carlos and Ayres and that does not account for duplicative vessels inside of those three zones as we look at those landings.

As we talked yesterday, obviously it has that direct economic value to the commercial fishery; but we also know that there's ecological values associated with this and ecosystem services and we've talked about that in some detail when we think about water filtration, those habitats that we're talking about, wave attenuation, the baffle reefs and how that basically impacts the hydrologic flow, basically helping to not have the erosion you would have if you don't have those reefs in that place, as well as, you know, basically protection against storm surge and all the things that we talk about in coastal resiliency.

But with those critical habitats that we talk about in that area and the wonderful ecological services that it provides, it also really supports a very lucrative and high value ecotourism and sport fishing industry in that area as well.

So when we talk about our public comment themes -- and we visited about this yesterday -- when we had this item before you in March and when we had public testimony in August, the items that we kept hearing and certainly the themes besides economic impact was associated with need to work a reef or it will not be productive and then there was also questions about the sampling in the six reefs that we had closed in 2017. And so next, I will hit on both of those themes a little bit with the next two bay systems that I talk about because they are both closed areas and they also can speak to that first question.

So this is Christmas Bay. These are photos of 20 -- in 2017 of the harvest that was going on, the kind of fishing pressure that was going and that, of course, led us to close those six bays, led us to also create a 300-foot buffer on the shoreline basically trying to create additional protections for those sensitive reef habitats and especially in these bay systems that had typically not had the kind of harvest that we were seeing in them in 2017.

We were able to go in, because we went in in 2017 and did some sampling in Christmas Bay and so you have there in the kind of orange the pre-closure numbers and in the blue you'll have post-closure numbers and those are the samples that we've recently taken inside of that area. And so you can see there the total density of live oysters is almost 100 percent gain over what it -- what it was in that pre-closure time. So certainly the oysters in there have grown and are healthy to this point.

We went ahead and wanted to break that down by size class to see if we -- it's representing all the size classes we would expect and certainly you can see there the 1 to 2 inches is about a 35 or 40 percent gain. The 2 to 3 inches show that same gain of about 80 percent and you see in the 3 inches, it's about an 80 or a little greater than 80 percent gain as well.

Next we move up -- or down, if you will, to St. Charles Bay actually and in this bay system, we were very fortunate that we are able to look at a harvested reef and a non-harvested reef inside the protected area. We call that a reference reef when we're doing restoration activities. So it allows us to really determine how much -- as you try to either restore a reef or as you let a reef set -- this wasn't on a restored reef -- but as you let a reef set, what will happen to it. And so it's fortunate that we were able to do that. We had talk also about a study that had occurred from Harte Research Institute that we had seen increases in small, medium, and large oysters there from 2017 to '19; but we went back in and did quadrant sampling here as well at St. Charles Bay to really understand the dynamics on oyster size between a harvested and non-harvest as well.

Here's the results of that. And as we talked about yesterday, in the greater than 1 inch, you see about a 1.2 times more oyster spat in the non-harvested area and when we talk about small oysters being 1 to 1.9, you see an increase of about seven times the oysters in the non-harvested area versus the harvested area. In the medium and market size, when we think of 2 to 2.9 inches, you will see almost a 17 percent increase when you go from non-harvested to harvested and you also see that -- basically that same increase when you think about oysters over 3 inches. So clearly the non-harvesting has not led to that reef not producing oysters and it certainly hasn't led to it dying in any way.

We also have talked through time about the structure of the reefs and with more structure and more complexity and more vertical height, you'll also get more faunal density, you'll get more organisms. And here you see this is an example of mud crabs, green porcelain crabs and polychaetes all showing that trend as well. And this trend, not only is it documented here, but it's very well documented throughout the literature both from Texas as well as other places.

So again our proposal, just to remind you again, the red line basically describes where it is. It sits between Aransas Bay and San Antonio Bay and it's the area know as Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bay complex.

Next we're going to hit the temporary closures. We've talked about the reasons why we do these closures. When we restore an area, we basically want to close those areas for two years. It allows us to get two spat sets. It allows us to get some growth on those oysters, some structure built up, and by doing that then if we open it for harvest, we hope that it can withstand the harvest pressure and basically allow the reef to stay intact. And so that's why we close those. Obviously as we've talked about here how expensive that restoration is and if you're going to spend that money on that sort of restoration, we do want it to be able to hold up when we open it for harvest.

The first one I'm going to show you there is Josephine's Reef. It's asking for a two-years' closure. It's in that San Antonio Bay system, and the site is 48 acres. Dollar Reef is the Houston Ship Channel expansion mitigation project. It's about 80 acres and it's inside of the Galveston Bay complex and this project is a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This project here is an extension by one year of the closure. We had asked for a two-year closure previously. There was bad spat set in November of 2021 and so it was a very poor recruitment year and Texas Nature Conservancy approached us about asking you for a one-year extension on this. We certainly believe it needs that one-year extension as well, and it's really those three areas there that you see on the map.

In our public meetings, we held meetings in Texas City, Aransas Pass, Port Lavaca. Had 58, 90, and 57 attendees respectively. I'm going to give you the summary of their comments inside the larger summary here in a moment. And we also took this to our Coastal Resources Advisory Committee October 28th. In general, obviously they supported the proposal; but specifically because there was some dissent on one of those items, the three bay closure, we listed them here, there were 12 in support and two opposed. And then on the restoration closure, all 14 members who were present supported that.

In our public comment summary regarding the three bay closure, I showed you these numbers yesterday. For all intents and purposes, the percentages have not changed at all; but the overall numbers of support increased by 313 since last night or through last night, the opposition increased by 118, and then the neutrals increased by 11 as well. And, of course, the opposition reasons that we talked about are really the economic impacts associated with closing the areas, working the reef is good for the reef, the closure should not be permanent, and of course many people or some people suggested that the closure is not supported by data or science.

I'm not going to read all these into the record again today. I did yesterday. But I will note the ones that have been added overnight with letters that we've gotten since we either read it to you. There were a few that weren't on the slide yesterday. But I read you those if we had gotten them the previous night and I'm now just going to list the ones that weren't on the slide or read into the record yesterday and they include and/or new are the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Galveston Bay Foundation, and the National Wildlife Foundation all put in letters in support of the three bay closure.

When we talk about the restoration closures, again, overall percentages not changing very much. Actually the support went up by 1 percent overall, but not -- again, not significantly. So what came in from the support side is we got an additional 222 comments in support and we got 25 more in opposition and that's really the change that we saw, other than the Galveston Bay Foundation also weighed in on this in support of the restoration closures.

Mr. Chairman -- well, next is our staff recommendation and it reads: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts an amendment to 31 Texas Administrative Code 58.21 concerning taking or attempting to take oysters from public oyster beds, the general rules, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the September 30th, 2022, issue of the Texas Register.

Now, Mr. Chairman, with that, that concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Robin.

Commissioners, before we open this up to many people that have signed up to speak, do any Commissioners have any questions or comments from Robin? And Robin will be here throughout the meeting and be available later as well. But initially, any Commissioner have any question/comment for Robin?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell. Robin, just -- I wanted to go back to Slide 2 just to -- for clarity. You had that geographic disposition which basically shows it from the upper east coast, swinging down -- swinging down to Texas, that all of those various fisheries or jurisdictions have been suffering and that -- it shows a pattern of having to close and really kind of Texas is the only thing left and we have to look at what we may do, whether we stay open or whether we make another decision, based on the pressure that everyone else has because basically this appears we might be the only thing left. Is that fair?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, certainly not completely the only thing; but I will say from a wild-caught harvest opportunity, we certainly are one of the last people who have those right now. And certainly there are other things that are going on, Commissioner Bell, as you well know regarding certificates of location, possible expansion of that here, discussions that we're having, the mariculture opportunities that have -- are being explored and trying to be used in other states, as well as here in Texas now.

But certainly what we do know is the demand for the product and the price being paid X vessel for the product and the demand that our fishery has seen with that increased effort with a very mobile fleet moving up and down from Galveston to Aransas Pass, we've seen that pressure be very, very high and we've seen our seasons -- when we started using this metric -- close much earlier than we would have seen them in the past.


COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. Now in the event today is the last time we ever have to talk about this -- and maybe this isn't timely, but -- since we'll probably be talking about it in the future, I've actually been kind of referring to this sometimes as the CAM bays because I get -- it's hard to go Carlos, Mesquite, Ayres. So if we -- if we -- I guess my comment would be maybe suggest something like that for ease of going forward, but that's all it is.

MR. RIECHERS: I'd be happy to do that.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: So, Commissioner Bell, along your comment when we look at this graph, what you say I believe is largely true. Chesapeake, which was the most famous fishery in the nation obviously, is down to less than 3 percent of its historic. Florida is completely closed. Alabama only allows hand togging and six sacks in the entire state. Mississippi is completely closed and Louisiana is 71 percent below their historic average and allowing less than half of 1 percent coming from public reefs. So, Oliver, I think you're -- I think you're right. It is largely -- we're the last all the way from the Chesapeake and all the way down around the Gulf coast. So that's absolutely and exactly why this is so critical that we figure this thing out.

Any other Commissioners? Any comments, questions for Robin?

Okay. We're going to get started and there are a lot of people that have signed up and so I'm going to do every effort I can to move this as fast along as I can because we literally have seven and a half hours of testimony if everybody comes up and takes there allotted three minutes and so I'm going to move it along. It's not that I'm rushing anybody, but it's just we need to move it along. So please be understanding of that, and I'll repeat this many times because we can only hold a few people in here. We have lots of people that are outside this room and will be shuffling in and so I'll try to remind them of that.

I have four people that have communicated online -- they're not know showing up -- but they wanted their position stated. Michael Boyer is for the proposal. Virginia Boyer for the proposal. Ferdinand Gaenzel for the proposal. Linda Pate for the proposal.

Speakers by teleconference, the first one is Lisa, then Ben, then Cierra.

Lisa? Can you hear me Lisa? Lisa Halili.

MS. LISA HALILI: Can you hear me?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I can, Lisa. Hello. Thank you for calling in.

MS. LISA HALILI: Yes, sir. I want to thank everybody, the Commissioners and the Agency and all the people that came out today. And I'm going to go straight to the August minutes and I want to say I do not believe that this action item can go forward because you instructed Mr. Riechers for the task force to go back at the last meeting because we were undecided on the second meeting and at the last meeting, we were supposed to come up with some type of compromise and Curtis Miller submitted one and I offered that. The agenda for that meeting was scratched. We didn't -- only thing that the third meeting was to tell us how to testify and we all know how to testify.

So what I'm saying is a compromise was offered up, and God bless Dee Halliburton. She is 24 hours a day. Awesome, awesome person. And so y'all have this compromise. Is this something that the Chairman have all viewed? That is my question. Have y'all all these seen this compromise?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Lisa, this is Beaver Aplin. We're not going to do -- we're -- there's no way I can do this many people questions and answers; but, yes, as always, anything that is sent to this Commission, every Commissioner has seen it, including myself. So, yes, we've seen it.

MS. LISA HALILI: Okay. Do you remember, Mr. Chairman, instructing Mr. Riechers to go back and have the task force -- that was the purpose of the task force -- to settle this issue with the three bays within the task force? Do you remember stating that in August?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Lisa, if you will, please, your three minutes, we're halfway through. There's --

MS. LISA HALILI: Okay. But what --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Lisa, I'm not going -- Lisa, I'm not going to answer everybody's questions. I have 150 people signed up.

MS. LISA HALILI: No, no, no. But what I'm --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Please state your opinion.

MS. LISA HALILI: Okay. What my opinion is, is that a compromise was offered up and I believe that this Commission should not -- this action item should be withdrawn until the task force has had a chance to go back and do what was stated in August. My opinion is that this is unfair, unbiased[sic]. It's just -- you know, each and every one of you can -- can -- can stop this action item. There is so much controversy over it and I feel like it's unfair to move forward and my opinion is today if we do it the democracy way and each and every one of you, I stand before God and all the people. It is state's water bottom, that the water belongs to the people of the state. That's God's water. And we are moving too fast and that I believe this should be withdrawn and I do not feel that this is fair and justice. I don't feel that the task force that was put together did what we were supposed to do. And the last meeting, Mr. Riechers will tell you that the agenda was scratched and we never -- he even told me to send in the compromise. He said you need to send that to the Commissioners. And I said but, Mr. Riechers, we were supposed -- and he said we're not going to do that today. I'm sorry.

And so if you continue on with this without the task force meeting completing their mission and this is voted on, then I feel like then there's something very wrong with this country and very wrong with the State of Texas and this Agency that I have fought for and loved so much --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Lisa, please, you're way over three minutes.

MS. LISA HALILI: Okay, okay. We would not be here today if it had not be for me what I did for Texas Parks and Wildlife. One man with this Agency wouldn't even exist and God bless y'all and I beg upon this Commission to stop -- to withdraw it. That is my opinion.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Lisa.

Dee, can y'all see the red light/green light down there?

MS. HALLIBURTON: Yes, sir. I'm going to start the telling you the red light --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: No, I can see it. I don't -- I couldn't tell if they -- I know the caller ins can't see it.

Okay. Ben, we're going to go next. And I didn't do very good on the first one moving along, so. But everybody heard Lisa's opinions and views on it and I'm going to try to move everybody along.

Ben, please, three minutes or less if you can. Cierra Borak next. Ben, can you hear us?

MR. BEN VAUGHAN: I can. Can you hear me?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yes, sir. Please.

MR. BEN VAUGHAN: Okay. Let me start right quick. I'm Ben Vaughan. I'm 81 years old. My dad was the Chairman of the Game and Fish Commission years ago. I applaud your own concerns about the damage to the Texas marine environment by the excess harvest of oysters formally by uncontrolled mud shell extraction. I was in his office in 1959 and there were another couple of individuals in his office behind the closed door and the conversation was very vituperative. And when I -- they left in a huff and I went in and spoke with Dad and he said, well, those were the representatives of the mud shell dredgers. And I know we're not on mud shell now; but if the dredging were not stopped, the bay's environmental health would be severely compromised.

It impressed on me the fact that you've got business practices that are -- that are wise. Nonetheless, they can substantially damage the environment, which is a greater detriment than the benefit to the businesses. As the -- we can't -- everybody -- everybody -- I'm not faulting the oyster people. Everybody wakes up and sees the morning going on the bay. Whether you're catching a trout or whether you're oystering and that means a hell of a lot to them and they've got to -- they have very limited -- very limited resources. And my suggestion is that -- and I'm getting to the end before I'm ready to be there -- but my suggestion is that they get enough money from the buyout to enter another aspect of this fishery or an enterprise that is this fishery being raising the oysters or an enterprise altogether not reliant upon the fickle, unpredictable, and unsustainable extraction of the reefs. Tie it back to oyster farming, to the oyster lease venture, or by a skiff with the proceeds of the -- from the TP and W and take -- get a lifetime nontransferable guide license that they can go into the charter business. If there's a problem with catching too many charter redfish, we can go to the -- we can go to catch and release. They do it in the mountain stream and you can't get a place to park where you can get to a stream. I --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Vaughan. Can you wrap up, please?

MR. BEN VAUGHAN: That's my three? Well, thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Vaughan.

Cierra Borak next. Then Chad Hanson Cierra, please, three minute or less.

MR. MONTEMAYOR: Ms. Borak's not online, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mr. Hanson, welcome. Mr. Hanson, can you hear us?

MR. CHAD HANSON: Thank you. Yes. Yes, good morning. Can you hear me?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yes, I can. Please, three minutes or less, if you can state your position.

MR. CHAD HANSON: Okay, thank you. Good morning, Chairman Aplin and Commissioners and staff. My name is Chad Hanson of the Pew Charitable Trust. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Commission today. Pew supports the proposal to cease all harvest of oysters in the Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bay complex and the temporary closures in Galveston and San Antonio Bays. We also recommend that opening restored reefs should be based on biological metrics to ensure reefs have a chance to grow and recover.

Oyster reefs in Texas and across the Gulf of Mexico have been struggling due to several factors, including environmental conditions and harvest on depleted reefs. Pew works in several Gulf and Atlantic states on oyster restoration policy that promotes the resource as both a fishery and habitat. Some of these states include areas shown earlier, especially Apalachicola Bay in Florida.

Pew has also been working with Texas Parks and Wildlife staff forever -- for over a decade on marine fishing and coastal habitat issues. We recently provided Parks and Rec Wildlife staff a summary of a comprehensive literature review we conducted on the impact harvesting -- harvesting has on oyster reefs to better understand the affects of harvest on oyster, on reef height, ecosystem services, productivity, and the potential benefits of oys -- of protected reefs.

While there have been only a few studies on the effect of dredging specifically, that research demonstrates that dredged reefs reduces habitat shelter and prey availability. The research also shows that protect the reefs often numerous ecosystem services by providing -- by serving as foundational habitat for many economically and ecologically important species such as redfish and trout. These species use oyster reefs as shelter and feed much like other -- much other -- much like others use coral reefs, seagrass, and mangrove forests.

As discussed at yesterday's meeting, the recreational economic value of high quality oyster reefs can be quite significant. Healthy oyster reefs protect shorelines from erosion and reduce storm surge. The filter the excess nutrients and sediment from the water and create a healthy environment for seagrass, which also offers food, shelter, and breeding grounds for fish and other wildlife. The oyster reefs in the Mesquite Bay area are near seagrass beds and marsh, work together to provide a healthy ecosystem.

Protecting oysters in the Mesquite Bay complex will allow these reefs to serve as functional spawning areas. Spawning reefs boost oyster populations over wide areas while they are only produced there, they travel to nearby reefs. Additionally, spawn increase create higher -- higher quality habitat as oysters mature, die, and provide more substrate for new oysters to grow. These reefs grow taller and more complex, providing even more surface area for new growth. Taller reefs allow oysters to live above the sea level where they're less susceptible to depleted oxygen levels and certain predators.

In short, spawning reefs/mature adults provide high quality habitat and are necessary to restoring and sustaining nearby reefs where fishing is allowed. We ask that you consider the need for additional healthy spawning reefs, especially in environmentally sensitive areas and support the proposed permanent oyster closures in the Mesquite Bay complex. The --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mr. Hanson, three minutes are up, please.

MR. CHAD HANSON: -- closures -- there is --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Hanson. I believe --

MR. CHAD HANSON: -- sustained harvest --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- you support. Thank you, Mr. Hanson.

Okay. We're going to go with in-person. I'm going to kind of do, you know, who's up and who's on deck kind of method. Grahame Jones is up first. I'm going to mispronounce some names and some are hard to read. Ernesto Ovando, I believe, and Rafael Cabrera.

First, Grahame. Hello, Grahame. Good morning.

MR. GRAHAME JONES: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, Dr. Yoskowitz. My name is Grahame Jones, and I'm retired game warden. I'm representing Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and our 30,000 members this morning. I've been a past state board member for CCA and I'm a lifelong hunter, fisher, and outdoor enthusiast.

First and foremost, I would like to thank all the current and retired Parks and Wildlife employees, including game wardens and biologists and those from all divisions who have and continue to serve the people of the Texas and our incredible natural resources for future generations. I would like to thank CCA Texas, Flatsworthy, Trout Unlimited, and many other nonprofit organizations who are letting their voices be heard today. Most of all, I would like to thank the thousands of people who fish, boat, bird, who see the value of our reef systems as the foundation which makes a healthy ecosystem.

I would like to thank those here today who disagree with me for taking the time to make their opinions known as well and their points of view known. Just because we disagree does not make us enemies.

The value of our reefs is intangible and doesn't equate to the market price of a bag of oysters or a plate of oysters on the half shell. But let's talk economics. According to a recent report from NOAA, saltwater anglers in the U.S. support over 470,000 jobs, provide 68 billion dollars in sales impacts, and contribute over 39 billion directly to our GDP. The best part is that Texas has the most saltwater anglers of any state.

I'm proud to support the permanent closure to oyster harvest in Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bay, as well as the entire Parks and Wildlife proposal related to the management of our oysters and reef systems, which I certainly see as a compromise already. Thank you for your time and for the opportunity to be here today.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Grahame. Good to see you.

Ernesto, you're up. Then Rafael, then Marcos Garcia is next. Ernesto. And as I call your name, if you can go ahead and line up, whoever -- there's Ernesto.

Rafael, if you can come up and get next. Then Marcos.

MR. ERNESTO OVANDO: Buenos dias.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos dias.

Do you have the translator? Okay.

MR. ERNESTO OVANDO: (Through interpreter) Good morning. What we are asking for is more open area so we can work. The only two areas that we have open, the oysters are very small. And I think that for all of the workers, our families depend on us. That's it. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. Excellent job. You got your point across. I appreciate that, Ernesto.

Rafael, then Marcos. If you can -- if someone can help us line them up, get them even closer we save the walking time. Rafael, then Marcos, then Mr. Gonzalez. Rafael.

MR. RAFAEL CABRERA: Buenos dias.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos dias.

MR. RAFAEL CABRERA: (Through interpreter) Only to tell you that me and my colleagues here, we're here because we disagree with the proposal of placing -- of closing those bays. I think what they're doing in trying to get all those vessels together, that's worse. Because what I think is, if you get all these areas together in Galveston, you're going to have around 600 acres for 500 vessels, so that's going to be even worse. So that contradicts what you're trying to do. There's areas -- the -- the areas that are open have 95 percent of small oysters and some of the areas that are closed have even bigger oysters, that I don't know why they keep them closed.

We -- we worked yesterday all day long, and all we managed to gather was four sacks all throughout the day. And all of it is just small oysters that are not passing standards because everything is closed. I think you should find people that are more capable to find out what are the areas that need to be closed and what are the areas that don't need to be closed. I think that you're trying to do good; but at the end, you're not and just tell you that our families depend on those areas and much, much more -- and not in a very direct way, much more people depend on it as well. And that's it. Thank you for the opportunity to offer expressions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Rafael.

Marcos Garcia, then Mr. Gonzalez, then Jose Lorenzo[sic].

Good morning, Marcos.

MR. MARCOS GARCIA: (Through interpreter) Good morning. My name is Marcos Garcia and I disagree with the closure of all three bays.


MR. MARCOS GARCIA: And that's it.


Mr. Gonzalez, Lozano, Dean McCorkle.

Will you help me explain that when I call their name if they will line up? It just saves a lot of time.

(Interpreter addresses audience)

MR. JORGE GONZALEZ: (Through interpreter) Good morning. What I think is that what you are doing is affecting not only our economy, but also the town that we're working at which is Port Lavaca. On the first day of work, we managed just to get three sacks and that's not -- that's not even enough to -- for the diesel that we use for our vessel. The license that we need to get, the cost of it is $189 and we can't even manage to get that -- enough for that. And that's it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Gonzalez.

Nick Lozano, then Dean McCorkle, then after Dean, Mario Rodriguez.

MR. JOSE LOZANO: (Through interpreter) Good morning. My name is Jose Lozano. I don't agree with the closure of all these three areas, nor temporarily or definitely. In the past, we closed several areas that I don't remember the names exactly, but one of them was a Carancahua Bay and the closure was just for us and they continued being open for other people.

So if you close these three areas, the problem is going to happen again in which the closure is going to be for us. I'm not fighting for someone else, but I just want to keep the Texas bays open for everyone. I also disagree with the lights that you use in the green light, the red light, and the yellow, the Department of Texas Parks and Wildlife. Because they -- they're asking us to move to one area only and we have needs and they're making us just do -- and we have families and they're making us just move to one area altogether. We need to work altogether, not for one party exclusively because we're here to work this together. Thank you very much. God bless you --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jose.

MR. JOSE LOZANO: -- and have a good day.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Dean McCorkle, then Mario Rodriguez, then C.G. Cruz.

Good morning. Welcome.

MR. DEAN MCCORKLE: Yeah. Good morning. My name is Dean McCorkle. I'm a senior extension program specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Department of Ag Economics and I came here because I want to make a comment, briefly explain a paper here entitled "The Economic Contributions of the Mesquite, Carlos, and Ayres Bays Oyster Fisheries," which I think most of you have probably seen. I think it was is shown at some of the hearings that have been held previously.

Some of my colleagues and I were asked by Texas Parks and Wildlife back in August if we had any updated economic data of oyster fisheries in Texas. None of us did. But that conversation led to a colleague of mine named Dan Hanselka and I -- and we ended up doing some economic analysis on the oyster fisheries in these three bays. We conducted that analysis using the -- what's called the in-plan models, an input/output model used for conducting economic impact assessment. It's used widely across the country.

We got some data from the Texas Parks and Wildlife and all the folks there we worked with were great, very responsive, very timely when we needed anything. And in good faith, we assessed the economic impact of the oyster fisheries in these three bays.

You've probably seen in the paper here that we showed, depending on which scenario we were looking at, anywhere from 50 to about 85 jobs. You don't have to look far now just looking at the people that are at this hearing today, that that number is way too low. One of my Extension colleagues later on, about a month after we did the paper, one of my colleagues from Calhoun County, R.J. Shelly, who's a coastal and marine resource's agent and I think many of you probably know him, he reached out to me after he saw the paper at one of the hearings and after several discussions with him and looking at some additional data or maybe I should say preliminary data, in all fairness to the industry, I now believe that we have underestimated the number of jobs that was in this paper and possibly by a large amount.

I'm not prepared today. I don't have any new methodology or any new job numbers at this point that I can share with you. I wish I could. And, you know, it's probably a situation with oysters where we may not have the best data that we need to assess economic impacts, but I'm willing to work with the industry, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and any other stakeholders that might be interested in working on that to get the data we need so we can get a better handle on what the economic impact is, including the job situation.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Dean.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Just as a comment, I see here that you're neutral on the position. Is that your --

MR. DEAN MCCORKLE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Thank you very much for coming.

Mario Rodriguez, then C.J. Cruz, then Curtis Miller.

Hello, Mario.

MR. MARIO RODRIGUEZ: Hello, Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Mario Rodriguez. I'm from Port Lavaca and if you need to find me on the water, I'm captain of My Crystal. I'm going to start off by reading the Code from Texas Parks and Wildlife Section 76.301(d). The Commission shall consider measures to prevent the depletion of oyster beds while achieving on a continual basis the optimum yield for the oystering industry based on the best available scientific information.

If the scientific information used here is the same scientific information used -- Texas Parks and Wildlife used to open Area 19 in Port Lavaca, then we can throw this proposal out the window because Area 19 has 95 percent of small oysters, undersized oysters. The boats are bringing in an average of four sacks the first day. The economic impact is much greater than the 60 jobs that were shown to be lost in the past -- in the past public hearing, as you can see just by stepping outside.

Now how are you achieving optimum yield if closing these bays that are not affected by freshwater and climate change and sending us the overharvesting pressure that y'all call us to the other bays that are affected by climate change and by forcing the instruction of these green light approved unnoticed bays? Now I will read something else.

The Commission -- from the Code. The Commission shall make no proclamation under the Chapter until it has approved and adopted an oyster management plan and economic impact analysis prepared by the Department and provided in Section 76.302 of this Code and unless such proclamation is shown to be consistent with the approved oyster management plan.

There's already coordinates of the area that's going to be closed. It's already on the page. And I just start by saying -- finish by saying that closing these areas -- well, what I saw in Port Lavaca and -- is really going to affect all the fishermen and I don't know how they're checking these areas. Area 19 should not be open for us to harvest. It should not be opened. And I don't know. Y'all should maybe look at those reports. What are -- how are they checking these areas? I don't understand. There's so much small oyster there, it could have been closed and opened next year and it would have been a lot better for everyone.

And I'm pretty sure Copano has oyster right now. There are small oysters there and I want to see those reports too of how they check that area and why they did not open it. But I'd just like to thank everyone that came and thank y'all, Commissioner and Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mario.

C.G. Cruz, Curtis Miller, then Michael Ivic.

MS. C.G. CRUZ: (Through interpreter) Good morning, Commissioners. I'm here because I -- I'm -- I disagree with the closure of the bays. The graphs that you were showing, those are two graphs; but they're only showing when the vessels were altogether. They're not showing before that time. I assure you that if you wouldn't close these areas that we were -- we will be able to work and we wouldn't -- in those areas, in our towns and we wouldn't have to go farther away to work.

Those graphs that you are showing where there's families that are being affected right now, that 63, there's much more families being affected by this. I ask you, please consider -- because we need to work. We have that need. That system you have of opening and closing places has not brought us any good. That's precisely why all of this disaster is happening. And please open spots where there's oysters. I know there's some open, but those places have no life.

I also wanted to thank you because in 35 years I've been attending these meetings for -- this is the first meeting where we get translation to our language. Thanks for your attention and have a nice day.


Curtis Miller, then Michael, then Barry Hill. Good morning, Curtis.

MR. CURTIS MILLER: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Curtis Miller, with Miller Seafood Company in Port Lavaca and Seadrift. I wish I had enough time to stand up here and dispute a lot of the inaccurate information Mr. Riechers gave, but we don't have that much time.

I would like to point out when you talk about Chesapeake Bay for one thing, I have a lot of colleagues and customers in that area and we witnessed over the years the decline of Chesapeake Bay; but it wasn't due to overfishing. It was due -- talking to 80-, 90-year-old people in that business up there, it was caused by changing water condition, climate change, and all different things. The seagrass died off. The crab population diminished. Many things happened in that bay and it was not due to overfishing oysters. It's just due to water changes was the main thing, and it is rebounding. The last two or three years, we can't hardly sell any oysters to Maryland or Virginia because they have plenty of their own. They're having record harvest up there that they haven't seen in years.

Same thing is happening in Mississippi. I heard you mention Mississippi. They're having record harvest this year right now as we speak on reefs in there in Mississippi that they haven't seen in years. There is production going on there.

The other thing, I think all of you should have the pictures I sent out to you this morning of the boat traffic in shallow bays. Some of the reasoning on closing these three bays I've heard is that, well, sportsmen don't do the damage that oyster boats do. I think the pictures that I submitted to you show otherwise. There's a track every 12 inches zigzagged across those bay bottoms from recreational boats and I've seen that all up and down the coast. I saw a picture of the bay in Port O'Connor there that was just tore up from recreational boats. So it's not just oyster boats that cause damage. So if you're going to close it to one, you need to close it to all because they do damage. The airboats running through the grass, everything does damage.

Now I would like to read an economic impact closure statement that was calculated or done by Mr. Misho Ivic. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, 100 fishing boats in San Antonio and Aransas Bay complex create an economic impact of 237 million dollars. The economic impact of 250 oyster boats is greater because they spend ten more times that on fuel, shipyard, mechanics, maintenance, hotels, restaurants, licenses, housing accommodations. It doesn't just stop at that $50 sack of oysters at the boat. It goes way beyond that in economic impact. Probably using the same parameters, it would be an excess of 500 million dollars economic impact of oyster boats on a community. A sports fisherman doesn't sell his catch, while the oysterman's catch is sold as his means of survival. That's how he provides for his family. Now let's see how the economic benefits are distributed --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mr. Miller, please hurry up though.

MR. CURTIS MILLER: Okay. Besides the three-man crew, the dock owner or dock manager and all employees of the oyster house make a living off of that. Last year 30,000 sacks were harvested out of these three bays for a value of 1.2 million and, you know, that jumps up at the restaurant to 18.750 million --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mr. Miller, as a point of reference --

MR. CURTIS MILLER: I'll cut it short.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- we all -- we all have that report.

MR. CURTIS MILLER: Yeah, so I'll cut it short. Just saying I think there's a lot of misinformation out there, miscalculations, and I would urge you to work with us. At this task force, as Lisa mentioned, we feel that Parks and Wildlife staff, Mr. Reicher, had no intention on negotiating with us or coming to any kind of compromise. It was their agenda and their agenda only. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Michael, you're up. Then Barry Hill, then Katherine Jurisich.

Good morning, Michael.

MR. MICHAEL IVIC: Good morning. Have a good day all of you. Mr. Carter is not here. I was going to thank him for all his years service and I appreciate our cooperation together, especially preparing HB 51 together.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Misho.

MR. MICHAEL IVIC: What Curtis Miller said about oysters coming back, all of this is true. This summer I did not have oysters on my own enough. I need in about half a year, I need at least 30,000 sacks to take care of Houston market, Austin, Dallas. Most of oysters came from Louisiana and Virginia. Virginia has right now so many oysters that they are hoping that you're going to close whole Texas coast because they already have covered Florida completely. They would like to take share of our business too, bring oysters to us. Florida is never going to come back. Why? Because they lost argument with Georgia. Atchafalaya Bay system doesn't get enough freshwater and everything is dead.

I was participating with one of my friends in getting oyster leases for him and these oysters never grew more than two inches. It was just never enough -- never enough freshwater. Now we are going to Louisiana. We had -- after disaster with British Petroleum, we had almost ten years of extremely high river. High river, Mississippi. High Pearl River. High all supply of freshwater was too strong. That's why Mississippi didn't get no oysters or east Louisiana. The best Louisiana, mainly oyster leases produce lot of oysters; but inside them because it was too fresh and they opened too many canals after -- after British Petroleum accident to keep oil out of marsh. Now with the river being extremely low, all of this area is loaded again. Actually, whatever is not silted by river.

Mississippi reefs, all of them have babies on. I have leases over there and they are also loaded with small oysters. What is in Texas? In Texas we have better crop now, better baby generation then I ever saw in last 50 years. So what we need to do, we really need to open all the bay and let people break clusters. What they are doing now, yesterday 16 boats worked for me in Area 29. They brought about 100 sacks. And what did they say? There's about two, three legal size oysters that are dead and another 15 of inch and a half, half an inch, 2-inch oysters on it.

We really need to break clusters. Some of these small oysters are going to die in the process, but they're going to be food for fish and they're going to be food for other oysters that are going to survive. So that's what we need to do. I appreciate that you heard me.


Barry Hill, Katherine, then Keith Barrett.

Good morning, Barry.

MR. BARRY HILL: Good morning. Thank you. My name's Barry Hill. I'm a resident of Fulton Rockport and I consider myself a lifelong enthusiast of, you know, outdoor sports, fishing, and hunting. I believe that we should let the science speak for itself and follow the lines of that science in terms of the closure for the three bays that we're talking about. So I'm in support of the closure of Ayres, Carlos, Mesquite.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Barry, thank you for your views and for your brevity. Thank you very much.

Katherine, you're up. Then Keith, then Mr. Ortiz.

Good morning.

MS. KATHERINE JURISICH: Good morning, Commissioners. Thank you for hearing us out this morning. My name is Katherine Jurisich. I am against the closure of the proposed three bays. I come to you-all speaking with generational knowledge. My great-grandfather was a pioneer in the oyster industry in the late 1800s coming from Croatia. After, by father Ivo carried it on.

If you know him, you know his story of coming to America with one pair of pants to work as hard as he possibly could for his life. Dredging has existed since the 1800s. We still have oysters today even though reefs have been dredged, storms have come through, and mother nature has done her job. We see that in our private leases, just as Mr. Misho explained to you-all. We have -- we had an abundance of oysters this past summer.

Through generational knowledge, I have learned that dredging cleans beds for baby spat to grow, which promotes healthy bay systems, meaning healthy oysters and more fish for those of you who like to fish. It's a very symbiotic relationship. Some pressure on a bay system is, in fact, healthy for it, of course, when it is managed properly. Meaning not herding a bunch of oyster fishermen there because of other closures. Trust me, I know the guys. They want to stay home and do what they love.

To give you a little information about me, I taught 2nd grade for eight years. I pushed teamwork in class. I have to honestly say that I have seen more teamwork amongst 2nd graders than I see with Texas Parks and Wildlife, CCA, and oyster fishermen. I truly mean that with the absolute most respect that I can.

It is really disheartening for me to see how oyster fishermen have been pushed off to the side and discriminated against, especially with one-sided information. There was a time where Texas Parks and Wildlife and oyster fishermen collaborated in constructive conversation about oysters and bay health. I think if that is brought back, more accurate data is pushed out, especially of the bays that have been closed since we don't have much data on them, it would make everyone happy in the long run.

Researchers, Commissioners, we invite you to come on our boats. Come learn with us. It is a group effort. We want it to be an open line of communication. In the meeting in Texas City a few days ago, I saw one-sided information, one-sided data. 63 jobs for 100 boats, that doesn't make sense. I saw overinflated numbers for fishing and under for oyster farming. I saw a computer system that was used to build these numbers, but I kept thinking "Did y'all ask an oyster dealer?"

It seemed so one-sided, my brother Tony, an oyster dealer, pointed out the discrepancies. In these graphs, I see really pretty data to close; but were oyster fishermen included in that?

My plea to you is to consider both sides. Actually have a meaningful task force. I really want my daughter to grow up on the oyster dock as I did. Last but not least, if it is a sanctuary bay, have it be an actual sanctuary bay. No one -- no one touch it. That's all. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Katherine.

Keith, then Mr. Ortiz, then Jorge Gonzalez.

Good morning, Keith.

MR. KEITH BARRETT: Good morning. My name's Keith Barrett and I'm from Rockport, Texas. I was raised off of the money that was made on the back of commercial fishing vessels; but I have a little different insight to it now and I do not envy your task of making this decision. I'm here as an individual, but I am the Harbor Master for the Aransas County Navigation District and I'm the one that has to deal with the boats when there's closures all over the state because that small fleet in some of those graphs that show you pretty regular or pretty static, you know, I guess harvest, when the fleets get shifted and the whole Texas fleet shows up at my door, it is chaos. Chaos.

I believe the reefs get overfished. I think the market gets skewed. The harbors are a mess. It's not what it should be. I think managing the fleet, where they go, is hard; but when we close area bays and push the fleet to -- I mean, those boats have propellers and steering wheels. They're going to drive to where it's open and what that does is put unusual impacts on those areas that remained open and then they go into, I guess you would say, conflict with overharvesting.

But I will say after saying all that, I am for the closure of the Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres area because of the sensitivity of where it is. That is a minor bay. It is connected with the Cedar Bayou and the flow of water that comes in and out of Gulf and the spat and larva that will be spread from those reef in that area out to the other areas that's been severely damaged can recuperate our crop. So pushing all those boats into that area and squashing that as well, is not going to give us the seed crop to further our, I guess you would say, our oyster crop for the future.

We can't kill the seed, so to speak. And that area is sensitive. If you've ever been there, it's a different place. I would suggest that you get on a boat, go, go see. The speaker before me invited you to go on an oyster boat. I think you should. It's hard work and I have to commend these people for all the work they do to provide the oyster harvest that really feeds our country, but we also have to be smart about our resource and we have to conserve our resource for the future. Other than that, thank you for allowing me to speak.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Barrett.

Mr. Ortiz, then Jorge Gonzalez, the Jose Rodriguez.

Mr. Ortiz, good morning.

MR. JOAQUIN ORTIZ: (Through interpreter) Good morning. My name is Jorge Ortiz --

THE INTERPRETER: Joaquin Ortiz. I'm sorry.

MR. JOAQUIN ORTIZ: (Through interpreter) I'm against the closure of those three areas, and I don't understand why areas that have no oysters are open. The area that actually have oysters are not open. I would like to know why Texas Parks and Wildlife has this law that no one in the world has it. With three tickets, they put us in jail just like a regular criminal. That's it. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Ortiz.

Mr. Gonzalez, then Mr. Rodriguez, then Shane Bonnot.

Mr. Gonzalez?

MR. WINTERS: Commissioner, we don't have Gonzalez in the room.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Then we'll go to Mr. Rodriguez. Please.

MR. JOSE MANUEL RODRIGUEZ: Good morning, everybody. My name is Jose Manuel Rodriguez. I work in this job for 37 years. (Through interpreter) I'm against everything that they're doing or you're doing because they're not giving us any benefit from the areas that are closing. Supposedly on November 1st, someone went to check on those lagoons and they supposedly -- they're saying that they're good. It's supposed to be just like the biologist people say because they were saying that 95 point -- 95 percent were small, but that's not true. 99 percent is small.

99 percent is small. Only one oyster for dredge. You know -- (through interpreter) So I'm against this and sorry for what I have to say; but the people who are doing this, they're doing it wrong. Or they can also give us the dimensions of the buckets that they're using to get the oysters from the lagoon.

Last year in Rockport, closed Area 32. This area the boats catching 25, 30 bags every day and they're getting worse, check every day on the dock and everybody is good. No ticket nobody. And this is the area first closed and they're leaving to the Area 30 for less area and the Area 30 have seven, eight bags. You know, it's not making sense. Close the bay for making 25, 30 bag and leaving to the less for six, seven bags. I don't think that is right. These regulations making the Parks and Wildlife, it's wrong. I'm sorry, it's wrong.

A lot of the dredges that ship is making -- for the ship -- the channels -- these people coming from Port Lavaca every three, four years and kill a lot of reef. The dredge is pumping the mud in the top to the reef. This is killing 100 percent and why not putting regulations to these people? This is wrong. The Formosa Plastics suctions freshwater to the bay, millions gallons the freshwater and pumping back hot water. This is for sure destroy your bay, the bay, the water.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Rodriguez.

Shane, you're up. Then Jennifer Pollack, then Alex Ortiz.

Good morning, Shane.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Commissioners. My name's Shane Bonnot and I'm the Advocacy Director for CCA Texas and I'm here to speak in favor of the proposal to close the three bays and the temporary restoration areas. That the men who earn their living on natural beds have nothing to fear and much to gain from the development of oyster culture as shown by the facts in every state in which the industry has been established. Many former oystermen in northern states, by taking advantage of their opportunities, have become prosperous oyster planters, with an assured business taking the place of their previous precarious calling.

Even when they have allowed the opportunity for independence to pass neglected, they are able to find steady employment on the planted beds in lieu of the uncertainty of labor on the semi-exhausted natural reefs. And finally for those neither having the desire nor the means to engage in planting for themselves nor the inclination to enter into the service of others, extensive oyster planting tends to assure that re-cooperation and perpetuation of the natural reefs by creating a safety valve which relieves pressure on the later whenever their productiveness is reduced to a state imperiling their existence.

There may be cited at least one instance where a large, productive oyster field was absolutely and permanently depleted and ruined by private greed and the supposed necessities of the business. A situation that never could have been encompassed extensive oyster planting in near by waters. Those are not my words. Those are the words of Dr. H.F. Moore in 1906 when he was tasked with submitting a report to the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries detailing the extent and possible development of oyster beds in Matagorda Bay.

He foreshadowed what was to come after seeing what was in those northern states and I feel for the men and women here today pleading for their cause, the family man just trying to provide, and they're stuck as they struggle with strife within their overcapitalized fishery. It's my hope that we learn from history, that we trust in the science, and demonstrate compassion as we find ways to become better stewards of the resource and perhaps if we listen to that 115-year-old advice, we can provide opportunities for all those outside of a fickle, unpredictable, but very valuable public resource. And in the end, we may not all get what we want; but our promise should be that the oyster reefs get what they need to ensure a vibrant fishery for future generations. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Shane.

Jennifer, the Alex Ortiz, then Jessica.

Good morning, Jennifer.

DR. JENNIFER POLLACK: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, Dr. Yoskowitz. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you again today. My name's Jennifer Pollack. I'm a professor of marine biology and Endowed Chair for Coastal Conservation and Restoration at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. My expertise is in oyster ecology. Because I'm an employee of the Texas A&M system, I cannot advocate for or against the proposed regulation changes. What I hope to do today is to provide a scientific basis to help inform the decision.

I want to start by saying I'm listening to the comments that are being made and I empathize -- empathize deeply with those whose livelihoods depend upon oysters as a resource. Oyster populations in Texas and across the Gulf of Mexico aren't what they used to be. U.S. Atlantic is in the same place. Pressures from storms, spills, droughts, dredging have changed the landscape and it necessitates increased conservation action and it's important to remember that oysters are more than just a fishery. They provide enormous economic benefits when protected and left in the water, which needs to be counted for in management decisions.

I want to make three brief points. The first is that oyster reefs do not need to be dredged to stay healthy. The science is clear on this point. Oyster dredging reduces reef size because shell material is broken or removed along with oysters themselves and reduces reef height, which leads to more sedimentation, not less. For example, in Sabine Lake oyster reefs are protected from dredging and as a result, are healthier, taller, more importantly have more oysters. If reefs are silting in, they do not need more dredging. They need conservation and restoration action.

My second point is that prohibiting harvest of oysters in strategic locations can benefit oyster populations over a wide area. Protected reefs provide oyster larvae that can be transported by currents throughout an entire bay system and can replenish oyster reefs outside of sanctuaries. These benefits can continue indefinitely, highlighting the importance of these protected areas and supporting a fishery at large. There's no scientific justification for reopening sanctuaries for harvest.

And my third point is that oyster reef restoration is an effective tool for combating habitat loss, but it's an ineffective strategy when restored reefs are subject to harvest. Less than one season of dredging can reduce the height of a reef by 30 percent, with restored reefs that are dredged being completely destroyed in less than four years. So protection of reefs in strategic locations needs to be part of the management equation.

I just want to close by saying that the main -- my main takeaway here is that oysters are more than a fishery and we really are at a crossroads at this point where we have the opportunity to continue to lead as Parks and Wildlife has in the past by making conservation meaningful conservation action a part of our management strategy. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jennifer.

Alex Ortiz, Jessica, then Dean Appling.

MR. ALEX ORTIZ: Hi. Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Alex Ortiz. I'm the Water Resources Specialist for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. I come here today on behalf of the 25,000 members of the Sierra Club and we have about 275 individual members submit comments that I submitted on behalf of those members last night. I come here in support of the proposed bay closures for a number of reasons, but especially given the -- how vital oysters are to protecting the Texas coastline and I understand that the position y'all find yourselves in is in -- is pretty -- pretty difficult, right? We're balancing issues of justice to communities in more ways than one.

By closing these bays, you're displacing workers and I totally empathize and feel for every individual who's going to have to deal with that. But the reality is that by not closing these bays, there's also a huge environmental impact on the communities that the bays surround. Oyster bays provide invaluable environmental services that's already been pretty well established from water quality filtration to protection from storm damage and the way that they act as essentially natural jetties and in that way, they protect seagrasses, marshes, and in turn provide flood capacity to a lot of these coastal communities, predominantly communities of color that thrive on existing just as much as they thrive on the oyster harvest itself.

So I ask for a lot of empathy and compassion for sure for all -- for so many of these individuals that come here today to share their experiences and share their insight; but we do support the bay closures and we hope that there's meaningful, innovative programs that come out of Parks and Wildlife and we would support -- you know, do our part in the Legislature to support additional appropriations in terms of actually creating habitat restoration work along with these displaced workers. Thanks for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Alex. We're going to do our part as well. Thank you.

Jessica, Dean Appling, then Jose Lopez.


MS. JESSICA SELVERA: Good morning, Chairman Aplin, Commissioners. My name is Jessica Selvera. I am a daughter of a commercial fisherman for more than 36 years in the industry. I am proud to support that I am against the proposed permit closures of Ayres, Mesquite, and Carlos Bays. This proposed closure is being made with[sic] any sufficient scientific evidence to back it.

Previous unsuccessful bay closures were non-monitored or maintained to promote -- to promote oyster reef growth like intended. In fact, it has a post effect and caused a loss in oyster reefs. Permanent closures do not converse[sic] the health of oysters we feel like the public is being misled about. What does help conserve them is maintenance and cultivation efforts by fisherman. Without the proper cultivation, reefs get covered in silt which prevents baby spat from attaching and maintaining the ongoing life cycle of oyster reefs.

Cultivation includes dredging, restoration of substrate, and transplanting when necessary. It is because of their diligence and generational knowledge that our reefs have been kept healthy, sustainable, despite hurricanes, flooding, droughts, and natural and manmade disasters. We are the leading industry where it comes to self-regulation. We are collaborated with TPWD to create House Bill 51 in 2017. This bill increased the penalties for illegal harvest and possession of undersized oysters, also including -- creating a sack tax to representing[sic] help pay for restoration, a substrate in public reefs. HB 51 also already limit the days oystermen can harvest and create protected areas 300 feet along the shoreline from being harvested.

The oyster industry has more than compiled[sic] with TPWD. However, TPWD took advantage of the industry's good faith by continuing -- continuing to close areas without justified data. This unfortunately has created smaller and smaller sections of legally harvestable bays. If the proposed closure is intended to create sanctuary bays, then why does it discriminate against one type of fishing but not other types?

This is because the word "sanctuary" is being used to strategically target the oyster industry. Since 2008, TPWD have become more radical in their regulatory practices, disregarding input from businesses, stakeholders, and experienced oystermen who have worked and helped maintain the bays for decades. According to TPWD's own data, previously closed areas are struggling, while areas that were harvested were found to be healthy and this information makes it clear that the proposed closure is not acting. Thank you for having me today.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jessica.

Dean Appling, Jose Lopez, Juan Carlos Limon.

Good morning, Dean.

MR. DEAN APPLING: Good morning, Chairman Aplin and members of the Commission. My name's Dean Appling and I strongly support the recommendations provided by the Coastal Fisheries staff for the closure of the CAM Bays and I also support the temporary closure of the restoration sites in Galveston and San Antonio Bays.

I'm retired now, but I spent 37 years teaching and doing research at the University of Texas at Austin. I am a biologist. I have a PhD in biochemistry, but I'm not an oyster expert. However, I've read much of the original literature and the science is established and quite clear, particularly on the ecological benefits provided by oyster reefs and I won't list them because Robin did a great job and I'll try to save some time there.

Just suffice it to say that the oyster reefs are literally the foundation of the entire bay ecosystem. Now some have claimed that it's necessary to clean or cultivate the reefs by dredging them. This is nonsense. The science on that issue is also quite clear and established, but let me just remind you that oyster reefs have done just fine for millions of years before humans ever invented commercial oyster harvesting.

There's no doubt that there are multiple contributing factors that have led to the decline of these oyster reefs and these include natural factors such as hurricanes, declining freshwater inflows, drought, flooding. But there are also human-made factors: Commercial oyster fishing pressure, harvesting undersized oysters, and not returning cultch back to the bay system. But the fact remains that these oyster reefs are in trouble.

I've wade fished these bays for many, many years and I've witnessed the dramatic decline in these reefs with my own eyes. If commercial harvesting is allowed to continue at the current rate, these reefs will soon be gone. Immediate action must be taken to prevent irreversible loss of this critical, natural, public resource and I urge the Commission to adopt the Coastal Fisheries staff recommendations. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Dean.

Mr. Lopez, then Mr. Limon, then Mr. Cevillo.

Good morning, Mr. Lopez.

MR. JOSE LOPEZ: (Through interpreter) Good morning, Commissioners. I wanted to tell you that I'm against the closure of these areas. It's required to open more areas so it won't happen, the fact that the reefs are dying. We need to work as well. Like as many people, we depend on it. And that's it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Lopez.

Mr. Limon, then Cevillo, then Mario Lopez.

Mr. Limon, good morning.

MR. JUAN LIMON: Buenos dias.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos dias.

MR. JUAN LIMON: (Through interpreter) My name is Juan Carlos Limon. We are against the closure of those lagoons where there's oysters because the ones that are open, there's none of it and our families depend on us. So we're doing everything we can or the best we can in our jobs and our work. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mr. Cevillo, then Lopez, then Moya.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos dias.

MR. MAGOALENO CEVILLO: (Through interpreter) My name is Magoaleno Cevillo. We worked at the Port Lavaca and I'm against those -- the closure of the bays that you want to -- they want to close down. We were able to work only one day on the 1st at Port Lavaca, and we only managed to get two sacks. So we decided not to go out on the second day because it was not convenient for us because more than 95 percent of the oysters are small. So the oysters that was able to -- that we managed to get the proper measure or the approved measure -- measurement, it was up to us. Often it was just to little of it. So hopefully they will open up some more areas because we need to work and we need the job. Thank you for letting us speak and hopefully you can take our opinion into account. Have a nice day. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Senor Lopez, then Moya -- Moya, and then Daniel.

MR. MARIO LOPEZ: (Through interpreter) Good morning. My name is Mario Lopez. I am against the closure of those three bays. I -- my opinion is that that's not the way of having to consult us with the lights that they set for us. My opinion is that if you allow us to work in all bays, we won't cluster -- the vessels won't cluster or we won't get close to each other and we will able to -- we will be able to stay in our own bays without getting altogether. Thank you very much and have a nice day.


Mr. Moya, then Daniel, then Mr. Blanco.

Buenos dias.

MR. JUAN MOYA: (Through interpreter) Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Juan Lopez Moya. And my concern is the next. Why is TPW not opening up all those areas? To me and I think to all of my colleagues, it's disrespectful only to have Area 19 open at Port Lavaca. Area 16, it's been closed for over three years. In Area 19 where you send us to work, there's only small oysters. It all seems that it was made with the purpose of destroying us. To me, it is important that -- to open all the areas so we can all go to work, that way we can all improve and have a good product. I hope that you take this into account. Thank you very much.


MR. JUAN MOYA: Gracias, Senor.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Daniel, the Maurio Blanco, then Jose Cruz.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Do you have Mr. Blanco? Okay, then you're next. Then Jose Cruz, then Brian Donovan.

Buenos dias.

MR. MAURICIO BLANCO: (Through interpreter) Good morning, everyone. My name is Mauricio Blanco. I won't be stealing much of your precious time. I only want you to accompany or be with me in this small exercise. I would like you all to pull out your cell phones and set up your calculator to do the next exercise. The report of the impact of the three bays that are going to close down says that 280,000 dollars are going to be lost. That's all. Each sack when it's sold in a restaurant, the cost of it is $400. So please multiply those 400 for -- by 30,000 that came out from those areas. That's going to be a total of 12 million.

I have studies all the way to 5th grade. I'm not a professional. I don't have a diploma, but I was able to make that -- to make that calculation. So from those 12 million, a big part goes to the consultant of Texas and part of that money goes to the state. Part of that is spent on the communities that we live in. And clearly I'm showing you that you don't need that many studies to have common sense.

I'm a fisherman that has over 35 years of experience and I can assure you we're not destroying the bays just like they're saying. So the gentleman that said that they were going to give out 46 million, they forgot to say that there's also -- they're creating pollution from all that plastic materials.




Jose Cruz, then Brian Donovan, then Chad Wilbanks.

Jose, buenos dias.

MR. JOSE CRUZ: (Through interpreter) Commissioners, my name is Jose Cruz. I've been a captain for 35 years. My opinion is on Area 19 in Port Lavaca. So in that particular area, 99.9 percent there's -- there's -- the oysters are very small. Area 16 has been closed for four years. I'm a fisherman for oysters and shrimp. In my area, I've been pulling out big oysters. So my question is if there's five more areas in Port Lavaca, why are they only giving us one?

It's unfair to me if there's more areas so we can work all at the same time without being altogether or close to each other. My proposal is for you to give us the opportunities. Because if you open more areas, there will be more -- there will be more productivity, the oyster wouldn't be as small, and we wouldn't be breaking that with our baskets. And my last thing is to tell you that I'm against the closure of those three bays. I disagree. Thanks for your attention.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jose.

Brian, then Chad, then Adrian Gutierrez.

Good morning, Brian.

MR. BRIAN DONOVAN: Good morning, Chairman, commissioners. Well, sorry. My phone doesn't recognize me with my readers on.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You can just say for or against if you want.

MR. BRIAN DONOVAN: I'm a captain in Rockport and I own a short-term rental on there. Boat businesses are part of the 500 million dollar outdoor recreation economy in the coastal bend and both of them rely on the health of our bay systems. I support both proposals before the Commission today.

During the working group meetings from March to now, ample scientific evidence was presented by marine and fisheries scientists, while the oyster industry continued their inventive tales of grooming reefs by dredging them. There's no scientific evidence that supports those claims and you've heard today that oyster fishermen need to break up clusters which is an out loud confirmation that the industry degrades reef structure.

Virginia was also mentioned today as a place with rebounding oyster numbers, but left unsaid is the fact that Virginia has the country's oldest reef leasing system and it's coupled with an enormous mariculture industry. Texas is an outlier on both of those.

The Commission faces an easy decision in the face of an avalanche of hard scientific evidence of the cataclysmic declines in Texas oyster reefs due to overharvest. Dr. Pollack said what I have in my notes, which is that coastal bend oyster populations stand at a crossroads. The Commission can protect the coastal bend's remaining reefs today or watch them disappear as other states have done. Please approve both proposals. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brian.

Chad, then Adrian Gutierrez, then Alejandro Gutierrez.

Chad, good morning.

MR. CHAD WILBANKS: Good morning. Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Chad Wilbanks. I'm with the Texas Oyster Association.

Carter, we're going to miss you. It's been a pleasure working with you and we have -- say a lot of great things about Robin who's just a fantastic Coastal Fishery adviser for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Now it's not often I disagree with him. It's usually on oysters and Red snapper. We'll do Red snapper another time. But here's the thing about the industry.

We all want a sustainable oyster industry, and these oystermen have been doing this for 50 years. So they're doing something right because without oysters, their livelihood is gone. And so in 2017 during the 85th Legislative Session, we passed House Bill 51 to put forth some certainty behind the oyster industry because what makes Texas so strong and great is our regulatory certainty. But what we're seeing right now is uncertainty in the industry. If we're going to be the number one place to do business and be the best oyster cultivators in North America, then let's have some certainty and so I'm cautioning you guys to move -- to not move too quickly on the proposal because I oppose it and let's address it in the Legislative Session and start the legislators and table the closure of these bays for now and work the Legislative process to come back in six, seven months and talk about it again. I'm Chad Wilbanks. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Chad.

Adrian, then Alejandro, then Owen.

MR. ADRIAN GUTIERREZ: Hello. Good afternoon, Commissioners. And good afternoon to everybody else. My name is Adrian Gutierrez and I am a second generation fisherman. I came here today to show you all that the chart that was shown at the meeting at the College of Mainland a few weeks ago is totally wrong. If I'm not mistaken, it says that about 63 people's jobs will be lost from these closed areas and and look at all these people here today.

The number given as lost jobs is incorrect and proof -- and the proof is here today. So now I'm just wondering what other misleading information you-all have on the charts shown to us all and the others. With that being said, I stick to my first answer and I don't agree with the proposals. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Adrian.

Alejandro Gutierrez, then Owen, then Raz Halili.


MR. ALEJANDRO GUTIERREZ: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Alejandro Gutierrez. A lot of the Commissioners and game wardens, they know me by Alex. Well, I'm here to speak on the proposal that I'm against it 100 percent. My feeling is normally I write something up to don't make any mistakes what I'm going to say; but this time, I'm just going to speak out of my heart. Okay?

I've been a fisherman for the past 36 years. That's the only thing I know how to do. Well, you see my son. I raise my kids for this job. Okay? And by the way this traffic light was set up and by the way these openings on the bays has been set up, we've been set up. We've been set up by the traffic light. Since last year, that was the purpose of the traffic light. It was truly helping. I was a member of the Oyster Advisory Group since they started the Oyster Advisory Group. Now they've getting you oyster and I'm not included on. Why?

Can Mr. Riechers tell me why? Why he picks his people? He didn't pick no fishermen. And I've been with this since -- if I'm not mistaken -- at least 7 years. But we've been set up. That's my main point. We've been set up last year by the traffic light. Getting everybody together in one little area and guess what? Blaming the oystermen. Blaming the fishermen. We're destroying everything with a strong bag. We're not. Do you think I want to destroy my future? You think I want to destroy the education of my last kids I have to get through college? You guys really think I want to destroy my future? No, I'm not.

Or put another option, which a lot people has in this country. Laziness. You want all these people outside to go on food stamps? You want all these people to be a scumbag? No? And I don't want to be that too because I never ask for no help. Whatever I have, I earned it. Nobody give it to me. Nobody.

So please take into consideration what you guys doing. The traffic light is wrong. And I've been put in a challenge and never admitting if I cannot be able to prove you that the traffic light is wrong and it's not working, you will not see me the rest of my life catching one more oyster with one dredge. If somebody want to take the challenge, hey, I'm here, ready to do it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Gutierrez.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Owen, and then -- Owen's up. Are you Owen?

MR. OWEN GAYLER: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, Owen. Then Raz, then Gezim Halili.

Good afternoon, Owen.

MR. OWEN GAYLER: Good afternoon. Thank y'all for having us. My name's Owen Gayler and I'm a fishing guide out of Port O'Connor, Texas. I'm for both closures and temporary closures of San Antonio Bay and Galveston. Unfortunately I am for these closures, but I do feel for the fishermen, the men and women. Mauricio said in our Port Lavaca meeting and stated when he gets to pull his boat from the harbor, he feels a sense of freedom as he goes on his way to work. Who am I to take that freedom away from somebody? Who are y'all?

But the fishery is in steep decline. There's things we must do. There's things that we must be proactive about in order to keep this fishery for these hard working men and women and y'all are set to do the tough call of the closure and that's the only thing we can do right now.

I have many suggestions and I can talk about how special closures are, but I'm going to talk about my suggestions because it probably will not fall on better ears than right here right now. Sorry. I forgot.

THE INTERPRETER: Just -- sorry.

MR. OWEN GAYLER: Go ahead if you want.

THE INTERPRETER: Let me interpret this into Spanish. So I'm asking permission to --

(Translation into Spanish)

MR. OWEN GAYLER: I see a strong unified front out there with the fishermen and women.

Go ahead.

It is unfortunate that their fishery is in steep decline. That they may potentially no longer be able to work in a fishery that they've worked in since the 1800s. These are hard working people that aren't scared of work and I think aquaculture is the answer and thank each and every one of these people to keep them in work. The only thing limiting this industry that y'all want to call a industry, how can you have an industry with a public resource, with something that God gave us and he gave us a limited amount and you want to call that an industry?

That's not an industry.

Go ahead.

The industry would be farming. Industry would be growing something, planting something, making something for the future. These men and women are assets to this state. The fishery is an asset to the state financially and economically. In order to keep it and make it even greater than what it is today, we must push for aquaculture or mariculture of some form to make sure these generations work forever. I see seven families in the whole oyster industry make majority of the money because they're set, whether it's a private lease or what. They have a private lease, yet they're still able to go rape and pillage a public resource? They own 60 permits?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Owen.

MR. OWEN GAYLER: That's not right. You need to limit the number of permits. We've got to get these men and women working 300 days a year instead of one month and the only way to do that is with aquaculture and mariculture and Texas Parks and Wildlife stepping in, working with the County Extension Agent through that county, having him train these people that live in that estuary so they don't have to leave their backyard in order to make a living for their family.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Owen.

MR. OWEN GAYLER: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Raz, then Gezim, then Eduardo Frias.

Raz Halili, good morning --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- or afternoon.

MR. RAZ HALILI: Afternoon, yeah. Of course not. Thank you all for being here and hearing us all out.

Carter, congratulations and I look forward to working with the new Executive Director. We've worked on a number of issues together. HB 51, some of the strongest oyster laws in the country. One that can make you a felon very quickly within three citations.

We did so in doing so because we believe in the fishermen, the people in this industry that they do want to do well. They do want to work together with the Parks and Wildlife and other advocates of oyster enthusiasts to better populate the oysters across the state. I will say that I grew up in this industry. I grew up on the docks. I grew up -- I'm a commercial fisherman myself. I started out on the water harvesting oysters when I was about 15 years old and I did that through summers through college and I came back on the business side of things after school and I've seen a lot of changes in the industry. I've seen it grow. I've seen new laws; but I've seen very many things across this industry in Texas, Louisiana, and up in the Chesapeake, which has been mentioned several times today.

And I will say it is ever changing and I do oppose the closures that are here presented before you today. I will say that will appreciate what you have done last time with tabling the decision and creating the work -- working group. I think it's very important to collaborate with, you know, Robin and the team and also other partners who feel it necessary to join in our conversation. I think that's the only way we're really going to find new innovative ways within the industry to have a healthy oyster ecosystem.

I would ask that you extend that -- the -- that table that you did last time another year. Those areas can stay closed throughout this season. They don't need to open. We can continue the workshop. I do feel that it was short-lived. How can we have a meaningful compromise within two or three sessions of a video conference? I would like to see more data put in. I do think there is some data that's put up that is skewed or misjudged and just by listening to the economic gentleman earlier, he had some numbers that were misrepresented in that -- in his first statement. So please reconsider extending what you did the first time, tabling this for another -- for another time. Let us have some more input because at the end of the day, my father, mother -- my father's an immigrant. My mother, she worked in a diner. They started out with nothing like many of these people that got up here and spoke today and they worked their way up from one boat to several boats to build a business that's -- that provides jobs and economic benefit to the State of Texas that produces a great product that grows all over the country and I feel that if we do this today, it's a domino effect and more closures will happen and the opportunity for people to achieve the American dream, as my parents did, will be taken away from them. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Raz.

Gezim, then Eduardo, then Chris.

Gezim, hi. Good morning -- good afternoon.

MR. GEZIM HALILI: Good afternoon. I'm Gezim Halili. Raz's cousin. It's hard to follow that. That was a good speech, but he missed out a few things. But I'm for him. We should delay the vote. I'm against it. And I've been hearing that everyone's saying there's no science proven that dredging cleans a reef. In 2008, I myself was out on East Bay, paid by Texas Parks and Wildlife bagless dredging reefs because it helps take the silt off the top and when hurricane's come through, when all the debris piles up, that suffocates an oyster.

I don't even know if a lot of people know that, but I worked 24/7 365 on a boat. So I know all that. And when we clean those reefs, they thrive. And when I cultivate year round -- I have social media. I have like 1.5 million views and people just compliment left and right fishermen, anglers, guides, sports fishermen, commercial fishermen. They just appreciate the work we do. So if we just limit these small areas and we're Texas, we're a big state, we can afford more cultivated and better areas if Texas Parks and Wildlife and the commercial industry work together to find these better areas to where we don't have to go to those small areas that y'all propose on closing and have these bays thrive, then nobody would be working in these small areas and we wouldn't be here.

We compromised. We went down from 150 to 30 sacks. I was there when it was 150. And we went from seven days a week to five days a week, from limitless hours to stopping at 3:00 o'clock. So there should be a compromise. We're trying to work with the sports fishermen and we want to have a good relationship with everybody at Parks and Wildlife, the Commission, and should I say the commercial industry to build that bridge, make it strong again to where everyone's happy. No one is on -- getting the short end of the stick. So that's how I say that I'm strongly against the proposal and I think we should weigh -- gather more data, get a better opinion on things and not just science this, science that; but firsthand view of everything. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gezim, thank you very much.

Eduardo, then Chris, Mr. Martinez.

Hello, Eduardo.

MR. EDUARDO FRIAS: How you doing? Good morning, everybody. My name is Eduardo Frias. I'm right here to be honest with you, I don't agree with these things that you want to close these bays. I'm fishing oysters for ten years. My dad, they show me, my uncles. Raz is my boss. I work in these areas almost all the time. I go back out three years ago when the -- in the beginning, the areas open. The oyster is really bad. The oyster is going to be really, really bad on the reef. We're fishing in there. Last year when I -- last two years when I go -- we go back to work again in there, the oyster is really nice. Really beautiful oysters. I don't know. I don't know how it make sense? These people want to close that area and they say, okay, the Texas Parks and Wildlife right now throw out a lot of rocks in a lot areas right now. Right?

These areas, the rocks is going to have the little spats in there. What we're calling a spat, these are little oysters. That will -- we'll have move it. We have to move it together. We gather the oyster, pull the line in, and get like real pollution. Again, the oyster is going to be -- come back like what is a couple years ago, make 10, 20 years ago. You help a lot containing -- the area is going to be growing again. But what's going on right now?

These companies, they have a lot of workers like me to -- like me. We're working the year from November to April to try to make some money to give something to my family. You think right now that you open right now the Area 5 and the Area 1 in Galveston, you think it's going to be enough for all the people going fishing there? You already hear there's no oysters in Port Lavaca. You already hear there's no oysters in Matagorda. So what you want to do?

You letting the people go in the streets, oh, like the other guys say, go trying to find some stamps and get like -- like something through the government to maintain the rest of the people when you can open some areas in there and then let the people fishing. That's what I want. I want to fish. I want to work. I don't want to be like, oh, man, let me go on the internet or let me try and find some money from the government. I don't want that. And I don't want my kids -- I have my boy and my girl watch I go looking for money from the government. I want to work for my money. I like to work for my money. I never want nobody -- nothing from nobody else. Like I wanted -- and maybe you can open the areas I want to work. Right now, like I say, in the Area 5 this is more area for fish and there's not too much rocks. Yesterday, I was fishing in there. We make some sacks all the way to 3:30 and it's really hard. It's really hard. It's very hard.

And the other point is very hard, it's a lot of boats working in the area. For how many think there's going to be the oysters in there? For one week? Two week? I guess no more of that. What are you going to do with that? You want right now say, okay, let me think about it and I'll let you know in a couple weeks? It's going to be like everything is going to go down.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Eduardo.

MR. EDUARDO FRIAS: Thank you. Have a good day.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Chris, then Mr. Martinez, then Jose Herrera.

Hello, Chris. How are you?

MR. CHRIS SAAVEDRA: Hello, everybody.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Please, three minutes or less.

MR. CHRIS SAAVEDRA: Yeah. Well, I say -- well, from my part, I say we open up all the bays, you know, and we let everybody fish them because if we don't fish them, we're not going to be able to, you know, produce oysters and if we don't produce oysters, nobody is going to have no Christmas presents, you know? Everybody is trying to get their Christmas and, yeah, well, I mean I say we got to make Texas oysters great again, you know? I mean after the Louisiana BP oil spill or whatever, we made Louisiana oysters great again, you know? Why can't we make Texas oysters great again? You know what I mean?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Chris.

MR. CHRIS SAAVEDRA: Thank y'all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Martinez, Jose Herrera, and then Jonathan Lopez.

Good afternoon.

MR. YAHEL MARTINEZ: Good afternoon. My name is Yahel Martinez, the age of 14 years old. Most fishermen with personal boats have spent over $2,000 on license, fixing their boats to prepare for the season this year and I just don't think they would like for y'all to close all the areas after all the money they spent on their boats. Most companies out there, they ain't hiring men over the age of 40 years old and that don't speak English and it's hard to see my dad and my mom on the table going through this and I don't think y'all would like to see y'all's kids go -- see y'all's struggle in life at this young age and I can't go to school without thinking about my dad, if he's going to have a job or not and it's very hard at this moment because he doesn't know if he's going to have a job or not at the -- after y'all close the area. So I am out here putting my word for other families, not just for mine, and please keep the areas open and I am against the closures of the areas. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Yahel.

Jose, then Jonathan, then Javier.

MR. JOSE HERRERA: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Jose Herrera. I'm here to present my respect to you so you can also respect our situation. It's a serious problem for us because we are having lots of problems in order to keep living because of this issue with the fishing with us. I'm concerned about these bays that they want to close on us. So they already closed three bays and they keep reducing the places where we can fish and there's still the same amount of vessels. So I find no logic in having to have us all in small places because that is logic that we might end up exterminating the reefs completely. Then they're going to blame us and say that that we were guilty. I've been a fisherman for over 30 years and what I've seen is mother nature going up and down.

Back in 1987, '88, and '99, we had a bad season, even worse than today's. It went up again back in 2002, 2005, and you can remember it was able to recover -- to recover completely from even having more vessels or more boats in it. So to me it will be a bad decision if you decide now to close these bays supposedly because there's no oysters or there's no fishes -- fish like there used to be.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Senor Herrera.

Next, Jonathan Lopez, Javier Mendez, Jose Martinez.

Jonathan, good afternoon.

MR. JONATHAN LOPEZ: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Jonathan Lopez. I don't agree with the closure of those areas -- for the closure of those areas. And apart from that, they're allowing us or they're giving us very few areas to work. There's too many boats for too little areas that are giving us to work. So what's happening after that is that we are -- we end up damaging the reefs that -- where we -- the reefs that we are working at. Texas Parks and Wildlife are blaming us when it's really their fault that we are taking the blame for. So there's over 500 boats that are working in seven areas that they only -- that they open for us only. And that's it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Jonathan.

Javier, then Jose, then Brad.

Javier, buenos tardes.

MR. JAVIER MARTINEZ: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Javier Martinez and I'm here because I disagree with the closure of -- that they're closing in those areas on us. Because according with Texas Parks and Wildlife, we are the guilty party on the damage on the reefs when the guilt is really -- the guilt is really for them because they're opening very few areas to work more -- to work with more than 500 vessels. This year they're only opening seven areas.

I also disagree with the fact that the closures are lasting for many years. Like the Area 1 in Galveston, the closure lasted for over a year and when they finally opened it, all of the oysters were dead. And in contrast, it's been open for four years now and you can find many oysters. Area 6 has been closed for -- Area 6 has been closed for three years already. And when they finally open it for sure, the oyster is going to be dead because the lifetime is only for three years. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Javier.

Jose, then Mr. Boney, then Mr. Bodden.

For everyone to the extent that you can shorten the time, just because we still have over a hundred left to go. If you could -- and if you could also say that in Spanish, please. If you can shorten it or just say for or against. If you want to say -- speak your peace, please, we're here.

(Translator interprets)

MR. JOSE MARTINEZ: (Through interpreter) So there's 40 -- 84 vessels working on Area 5 and the first day I notice the catch of the oysters, most of it was spat. So looking at all those vessels on that day, I was able to see that 70 percent of it is spat. They're going to be damaged for all of these vessels. So when I started to work, I saw that a lot of it was spat and each of the oyster had 10 to 15 that were dead and it's hard to leave them all alive because of the size and the difficulty that is to get them unstuck.

Our job is to fish. But with the rules that they're implementing on us, it's very difficult. We understand it, but it is very difficult. So because if you check the areas that you were opening, how come that we're finding -- we're finding so much spat and at the end, the blame -- we're taking the blame for all of it because at the end, the decisions that you're taking are wrong, but to you this is a right choice.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Senor Martinez.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Boney, then Bodden I believe, then Catalina Martinez.

MR. BRAD BONEY: Good afternoon.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good afternoon.

MR. BRAD BONEY: Commissioners, Chairman, it's Boney actually like skinny bony. One thing, let's go Astros. Right? No?

I've listened here plenty. I'll be short. A couple of thoughts. I came with a great speech, but I'll parse it down. Public policy has consequences, good and bad. You guys are going to be making a decision today on public policy and I want to the emphasize permanent is just that. Okay?

Texas Parks and Wildlife is essentially regulating a business. The oyster industry. That's tough. And all business people understand it's regulation. It's regulatory consistency that helps a business to thrive and succeed. What made Texas great, what helped us out was our natural resources. Oysters are one of them. Yeah, we've got a problem. It was my hope originally at the last meeting in March that there would be collaboration, that there would be a group together between Texas Parks and Wildlife and the industry to get together. I think marine biologists and people who worked boats working together could make a difference.

When I go fish, when I look for a guide, I don't hire a marine biologist. I hire a fishing guide. Same thing here. We've got a great resource and a lot of intelligence that needs to work together. The other part is data. A lot of stuff goes in data -- and we're all prone as human beings to twist data to our advantage. One thing that I've caught up on, Christmas Bay. Y'all saw this chart. I'm intimately familiar Christmas Bay because I was working on HB 51 at that point in time. I got a phone call and we had a big problem in Brazoria County. I contacted Dude Payne. Met with Dude Payne and Matt Sebesta. They were upset and they had a reason to be and what happened.

From that point in time, a resolution came up from the county and we pushed to shut it down. This was prior. Christmas Bay, nobody can tell me the last time it was fished prior to this. 2017 it was fished. This is where it is now. Maybe it's anecdotal. Maybe it's not. Maybe it's science. Maybe it's not. But there should be a conversation and before a permanent decision is made, get these folks together.

I'm a former -- I was appointed by Governor Perry and Governor Abbott. I'm sensitive and understand your decision and it's an important one to make. I think tabling it is the right thing to do. I think sending the groups back -- Texas Parks and Wildlife staff, commercial industry, NGOs, CCA -- get together and put together a plan that works well for everyone.

We lost 8,000 acres in 2008. We've replenished 1,700 and you're talking about permanently shutting down 2,000, which is essentially a quarter, 25 percent, of Hurricane Ike. I appreciate your time. Please consider it. What I'm asking for, just table it. Put a working group together. Let's get these guys on the same page. Let's use marine biologists and the individuals that know the waters together to build something better and build back our reefs. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Boney.

Bodden, then Martinez, then Susanna Galindo.

Mrs. Bodden? Buenos tardes.

MS. CATALINA MARTINEZ: Buenos tardes. (Through interpreter) My name is Catalina Martinez and I'm here to tell you to understand us, please. I'm asking to open these areas and I'm asking you not to close them because we need the job. We need to work mostly because, you know, the prices of the license, for the captain, for the sailors, it's not enough for us. So I'm the owner of two boats and my husband is captain and with the pay -- with the payments that we have to make, there's little left over for us when it's a very demanding job. He gets off at 4:00 in the morning. The water is cold. It's just not fair for us.

So I've been in the industry for over 20 years and I -- I've been working with oysters and what I think is that you're doing the wrong thing by closing all these areas and putting all of the boats in the same area because that way you are going to have all this damage to the oyster reefs. So I'm thankful to you, but I also have to tell you that while you are sleeping and without worries, we have to be concerned about our situation and -- because we want to fish and they won't let us.


MS. CATALINA MARTINEZ: (Through interpreter) It's unfair what you're doing, but thank you very much and God bless you.


Galindo, then Guzman, then Santiago Osornio.

MS. SUSANNA GALINDO: Buenos tardes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos tardes.

MS. SUSANNA GALINDO: (Through interpreter) Thank you for listening to us and I am an owner and I'm also the daughter and the wife of people who work in this industry and I'm worried about the situation that we're living at. I'm against the closure of the bays because it's not only one family or 1,000, but over 2,000 families that are dependent on the industry and to me, it's unfair that you are closing these areas because we depend on it.

So clearly I'm totally against it because in the six months that you allow us to work, my husband and other people have to invest lots of money or invest a lot in it and for very little; so that's giving us no opportunities and no other choices. So thank you for listening to our many voices, and I hope to God that you can hear us.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Samuel, then Santiago, then Carlos Aguilar.

Samuel? No?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Samuel's not here.

Santiago? Buenos tardes.

MR. SANTIAGO OSORNIO: Buenos tardes. Good afternoon. Oh, my name is Santiago and I've been fishing for 20 years, since I was 15 years old, and I've been here and in Louisiana and in this oyster business and these three areas -- the Ayres Bay and Mesquite Bay, Carlos Bay -- I see some years they got oysters and some years there's no oysters. Even if we don't work them, some years don't have no oysters and some years we work and the next year they got oysters. It depends on the fresh and the salty water on -- so they can reproduce.

So they might come back whenever the right water, you know? And I disagree on the closures because we can work together. We can plant shell or rocks. We never plant nothing on these three areas. That's why the oysters don't grow sometimes when we got the right water. If we have more shell or more rocks in it, on those three areas, more oysters will come back when we get the right water because, you know, it depends on the mother nature on some type of the case and the other of -- part of the case depends on us. If we plan more, we're going to get more back when they spat if there is something that they can stick to.

You know, I disagree on the closure because I got small boats and if y'all close these areas, it's going to be too hard for me to fish in the deep water or I will have to -- I don't know what I will have to do with the boats. Probably destroy them because nobody will buy them because there's no other areas for those boats to fish, you know, and I see sometimes the oysters grow and if we don't fish them and too much freshwater come, they will all die. Like the area that's been closed, like St. Charles, if we get too much rain, they will all die and nobody is fishing right now or if -- you know, they will all die if too much rain or if we get zero rain, they will die because oysters need brackish water so they can reproduce and that's my point of view and my experience. You know, thank you for listening and that's all I got to say. I disagree to close and we can work together, you know, take a better decision.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Santiago.

MR. SANTIAGO OSORNIO: You're welcome.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Carlos Aguilar, Victor Ayala, Pablo Cervantes.

How are you?

MR. CARLOS AGUILAR: I'm fine. Good morning. I just want to say that you guys need to get together with us, with your biologists and, you know, go check the bays you closed like Copano that I work off of Fulton. I've got three shrimp boats and I went through the -- where you guys put the tips on and you put the fisheye up there on our nets and we always took biologists to the Gulf, you know. We fix all the problem. We got together and we fixed it.

I've got three shrimp boats in the Gulf, but now I'm oystering. I've got like this thing. So I oyster. I've been running everywhere in Copano on TX 29. There's some places down south, Long Reef, nobody goes to catch oysters. There's some reefs there. I've never seen no boats there years by years and now yesterday I went down there, all the oysters are dead and lot of baby oysters on the big shells. So I don't know why you guys don't get together with us and do like we did in the shrimping business, you know?

Maybe we'll have better connection with you guys and, you know, each of what they know, the older guys, they know how to oyster better, you know. That's all I have to say. I mean, if we get together, we can work something out, you know?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carlos.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Next is Victor, then Pablo, then Jose Castellano.

Victor, good afternoon.

MR. VICTOR AYALA: Good afternoon. (Through interpreter) My name is Victor Ayala. I started working back in 1995. In all of this time, I noticed how the laws have changed and I can tell you that the way we used to do it in the past is better than what they're doing right now. The way they used to do it back then is -- it was the normal way when they will open in November and close it at the end of April. It didn't matter the way the oysters were -- the way the oysters were showing back then. I was with you last time and I told you that we were going to be back or you were going to be back and I'm here because right now there's an epidemic of oysters. There's two things that you're doing bad. At the end, it's going to be your choice. You're going to end up taking a bad decision. I don't know.

I disagree with the closure of the three lagoons because that's going to decrease the area that we have to fish. And these include us, these include the captains, CCA, and all of us so we can all work together and improve for the good of everyone.

It's been unequal and stop favoring some people because of their education or the way -- the fact that they can speak in public easy -- easily or easier than us. Let's do it all together. The open areas, in the past they opened Area 1, Area 5, and Area 8 in Galveston because supposedly there was no much oysters, but now there's oysters and what about the rest of it?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Victor.

MR. VICTOR AYALA: (Through interpreter) And I'm also thanking -- thankful to you because of what you're doing good, which is creating more rules, but the bad part is the traffic light.


When everyone comes up will you remind -- and I'll remind also in English -- if you'll watch the light, green; when it's yellow, please finish up; and at red we should be finished.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Just help everyone.

Pablo, you're up. Then Jose, then Maria.


MR. PABLO CERVANTES: Hello. How you doing, ladies and gentlemen? This is my second time coming to see you. I don't want coming back, you know; but I don't have no choice. You hear a lot of things right now about people agree to close and people do not agree. And I wanted to know how you feel whenever you see the child? It almost breaking my heart -- how many families you think they got the same problem? Because the decision to make a good decision today.

A lot of people talking about table it. I don't think it's going to help too much because tabling it is going to stay for too long. Make it a good decision. We're here to let us know we not agree. But most of the fishermen we agree not destroy the reefs. We got so many things we can do. So many things. I've been fishing in Louisiana. I've been fishing in Texas. In Louisiana they've been doing so many things right, but they don't close no areas. They bait grass, they bait shells.

I mean, one time I was working in Louisiana, we had the dredger. We take the back off because we try to let the oysters come back. That's how the oyster's coming back. Do the dredges on it. That's how the little oysters grow, with the dredges on it. This the same thing. If you put some coral, if you don't put the tractor to move the sand on the land, it's not going to grow right. It's the same thing on the oysters.

Give us a chance. Why you don't put the people that got experience in how to recreate the reef? How we can work together? Give us a chance. Hear all the people outside. I mean, I don't sleep for the last couple nights, you know, because I don't feel too good because I don't know what to do. What is the next step, you know?

You see a lot of people almost -- almost we want to cry. I'm 50 years old. It don't make no sense to come and cry in front of you, but we feel bad. And I'd like you to give us a chance to work something else because you got childs and you got family and we don't have something for -- to destroy nothing. We ask -- we need opportunity to work with you. Just give us a chance and hear what we got and let's try to work together and see. We can do so many things better. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Pablo.

Next, Jose, then -- then -- Jose, then Maria, then Mr. Gonzalez.

That was -- yeah. Jose?

Okay. Then Maria.

MR. JOSE CASTELLANO: (Through interpreter) My name is Jose Perez Castellano. I've been working at the Galveston Bay lagoon for over 20 years. So I see these regulations that never happen in the past and example with this bay that was closed for three seasons and when we started fishing again, we were only being able to catch 50 sacks a week. Do you think that's fair?

And oysters, you have spat at the beginning and if you -- you have to let it grow. But if you don't harvest it, what's going to happen is that it's going to die. So you can -- an example of the companies that are working here, companies such as Misho's and Johnny Jurisich, they -- they know that they can harvest and they can harvest for six months; but it's logic that if you don't harvest, that the oysters will die and they're also sending us to -- all of us to fish in a small area.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Jose.

MR. JOSE CASTELLANO: (Through interpreter) God bless you and please make the --


MR. JOSE CASTELLANO: -- (through interpreter) best decision that you can.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Maria, then Gonzalez, then Crispin Tellez.

Maria, welcome.

MS. MARIA PADILLA: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Maria Padilla. I'm directing to you all responsible for this Department that I'm making you responsible and here to tell you that I'm his wife and I don't ignore the work of my husband. That I'm constant fighter in all aspects for my family, for my kids in order to get ahead or move forward in life.

Many years have passed and now that we're getting older, my husband and I, I realize that our work, our job is about to be over. I don't understand this big change, very strong change, because it's very impactful on our lifestyle. It's very impactful because taking into account even the more basic things, there's no way to explain to our kids that there's no more or it's difficult to establish those projects that we have.

The conclusion is terrific this Department has no sensibility or they're not worrying about the social aspect or economic/financial aspect of it. They don't care about the fishermen, that we are losing everything. And from this decision, I will call it discriminatory decision. Almost against the Constitution in order to favor only one group and to punish another one. I don't think this is correct, your -- the way you act, it's aggravating us. It's breaking my rights, my civil rights.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Please wrap it up, Maria. You're time is up. Please wrap it up. Thank you.

Okay. Then Gerardo, then Crispin.

Buenos dias.

MR. GERARDO GONZALEZ: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Gerardo Rodriguez. I don't agree with the closure of these areas because me and my colleagues that are outside, we need this work. And please take into account that there's many -- or there's a lot of people who need this work or job and there's just a few that want this closure. Thank you.


Next is Crispin, followed by Luis, then Michael.

MR. CRISPIN TELLEZ: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon to everyone here. I'm Crispin Telles Lopez and I've been working in this for over 30 years and I'm here to tell you that I disagree with the fact that they want to close these three areas. They previously closed three areas on us and they promised us that they were going to reopen them and nothing has happened so far. Such as Christmas Bay, Pelican Bay, Carancahua Bay. You doing this, you're doing this which is not just or is an injustice on us. We're losing all of our properties. Last year, most of the people lost a lot because they only gave us two months of work. I think that you are closing opportunities on us because years ago, they used to keep all the bays open and that way we were able to find the best spot to fish instead of being altogether.

I have the experience that I work for a long time in Louisiana. I used to work one day in a certain place and a different place the next day. So that way, you won't damage the oyster. Different in Texas, that they have us all 400 vessels working in one spot. And so my proposal to you is instead of closing -- instead of closing these areas, open more to us because you can say that -- you can see that when you open them, you are able to see them grow even better.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Thank you, Crispin. Gracias.

Okay. Luis Fernando -- pardon me -- followed by Michael Weiss and Jorge Morales.

MR. WINTERS: Commissioner, I don't think we have Luis in the room.


MR. WINTERS: We don't have Luis in the room, so we'll move on to the next one.

MR. BONDS: We don't have Luis, Vice-Chairman.


MR. BONDS: We do not have Luis, so we would move on to the --

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Oh, okay. So he's not here? Okay.

So Michael Weiss and after -- and then Jorge and then Emily Foxhall.

MR. MICHAEL WEISS: Hello. My name is Michael Weiss. Thank you, Commissioners, for having us here. I'm a retired game warden from Texas Parks and Wildlife. I spent 30 years working the coast, checking oyster boats. What I noticed over the years was the -- especially here lately, is a smaller and smaller oyster boat. They're able to get on top of these reefs, especially during a bull tide in the wintertime, these smaller boats are able to get on top of these reefs and as a result, they have reduced the vertical height of our reefs in these areas of Mesquite, Ayres, and Carlos Bay. Particularly one reef which is Beldons or on a map if you look at it, it's called Third Chain of Islands. Well, guess what? There's no islands there anymore.

And I don't -- you know, there are some environmental concerns there that the tops of them got taken off. But last year, my wife and I were out there wade fishing, it's what we normally do all the time, and I was watching the boats and this is -- you know, the smaller oyster boats are going over the top of them and their motors are kicking up like this. So what has happened is that's just one reef. That's the Baffin reef between Carlos and Mesquite Bay. Those islands, they don't -- they don't even call it Third Chain of Islands anymore because those islands are gone.

Texas Parks and Wildlife, when I worked for them, we were tasked with protecting the natural resources of the State of Texas. We weren't tasked with regulating businesses. Those oyster reefs, those bays belong to the people of the State of Texas. For a small fee, the oyster industry is allowed to go out there and harvest them and they are regulated -- the harvested of those oysters are regulated by Texas Parks and Wildlife. Texas Parks and Wildlife, if there was plenty of oysters out there, would be the first ones to allow those reefs to be open. If they weren't getting depredated and there was plenty of oysters in these bays that are closed right now, these guys would get to fish. But as a result, Parks and Wildlife has done a great job. Our biologists know what they're doing. And thank you for the time. Was that my ding bell? I heard a bell.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Well, you might be hearing some things. It wasn't -- I didn't hit a bell, but --

MR. MICHAEL WEISS: Okay. Well --

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: You have a green light. So you haven't -- you hadn't had the gong yet.

MR. MICHAEL WEISS: Well, I left y'all with a paper last time that had 24 areas that, you know, I showed what the coordinates were. Those are some of my favorite fishing spots also. So did y'all get to go fish them? I don't know. I was just asking. But anyway --

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Now there's your --

MR. MICHAEL WEISS: There's my ding right there. All right. Well, thank y'all for your time. But anyway, I totally support what Texas Parks and Wildlife is doing. That's what we're in the business of, protecting our resources.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Thank you, Michael.

Let's see. So we've got Jorge Morales, Emily Foxhall, and Luis Camacho.

MR. JORGE MORALES: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon to everyone present here. I'm going back to this gentleman that just went up. So he was saying that we are bumping -- the vessels are bumping on the reefs. But how are we going to do that if we have a GPS in them? But we will move forward. Like you heard all of the friends that have spoken here, what we want is to work all together; but you're pushing us to move to and steal or take the job from other people. We have 10, 15, or 20 years of doing this. So this is our job. So for those three bays, I have five vessels that they have to work in shallow areas. So what am I going to do?

So your selling those licenses to and where are we going to do this? So it's something that we cannot see in your minds, in your heads that you're going to close all these lagoons and so what's going to happen to us? That's it. Thank you. Thank you very much?


Is Emily Foxhall here?

MS. EMILY FOXHALL: I'm observing.


MS. EMILY FOXHALL: I'm just observing.


MS. EMILY FOXHALL: I'm not going to speak.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Okay, so don't need to do that one.

You're Luis?


VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Go ahead, Luis. Give me just a second. So we've got Luis and then we've got Jennifer Nalls, followed by Mark Valentino.

Excuse me. Go ahead. Thank you.

MR. LUIS CAMACHO: (Through interpreter) Thank you, everyone, and thanks for taking a little bit of time for us. I've been fishing oysters for 11 years and I'm against the closure of these three bays because it's not only us that you're putting out of jobs, but lots of people are being -- are getting affected. By closing all these areas, like many people already said, there's going to be 500 vessels working in a small area and there's going to be destructions of these reefs.

So what I think is that instead of closing it, if there's more areas, there's going to be more time and bigger areas, so we -- we wouldn't be damaging the oysters or the oysters reefs as much. That's all and thank you for your time.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Thank you very much.

So that's Luis. Is Jennifer Nalls going to speak?



Mark Valentino, followed by Felipe Bueno, followed by --

MR. MARK VALENTINO: Hopefully my two minutes --

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: -- Elvin I think. Huh?

MR. MARK VALENTINO: Has it been two minutes yet? Three minutes yet? Starting now?

Yeah, Mark Valentino. Third generation on Galveston Bay in the oyster and seafood business. I'll just start out by saying I think that we should table this for another year. I think I was the first one to tell this Commission that probably November of 2023, we're probably going to have the highest population of oysters that we've had in my lifetime. Most the NGOs don't want to tell you that because it doesn't fit their agenda.

We've been told about the science. I guess Washington D.C. has been -- the CDC has been telling us follow the science. Well, the science in this situation is all flawed. You get two different stories here completely. Completely two different stories. One side is telling you the truth. Another side is twisting the data to fit their narrative. We've been told about the bays that closed after 51 was passed, but they give us the samples of 2019, but would not give us the samples of 2020. Why? Because it doesn't fit their narrative.

I have been taught -- told that I needed to speak of what happened in the 19 -- 1980s. I was up here the first time. I got to speak in front of the Commission. Gary Matlock asked the Commission to close the entire Texas coastline for two years. Of course, the industry couldn't take that. We filed an injunction and got our day in court in the Travis County Court and Gary got his time on the stand and drew all kinds of graphs and did all kinds of things and we were thinking my goodness, man, he's making a good case why the state should be closed for two years. After lunch when he couldn't add two and two and come up with four. He was so confused. And then when our witness got up, which was Bob Hoffstetter that has been published like three times, the leading expert for Texas Parks and Wildlife. He got up on the stand and he was asked a lot of questions and when he got off the -- well, before he got off the stand, the judge started asking questions and the judge says, well, you have -- you've been published three times, you've had all of this experience, you've been with the Department for 40 years, you're kind of like the expert, but they didn't want to listen to anything you had to say? And he said no, sir.

And so we won and there was 13 different counts against the Parks and Wildlife. All I'm asking is table this. Next year, come back this time next year and you will see how many oysters we have in the State of Texas. People are acting -- people are telling you that we're in a disaster. We're not in a disaster. We're on the verge of the best oyster season we've seen in our lifetime.


MR. MARK VALENTINO: Thank you so much for listening to us.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: You bet. Thank you.

So we have Felipe, followed by Elvin Enriquez, and Troy Williamson.

MR. FELIPE BUENO: (Through interpreter) My name is Felipe Bueno -- sorry -- I'm against the closure of these bays. I'm here because people are saying that we destroyed the reefs and I'm here to tell you that there's this reef called Moses Bay -- Moses Bay -- and I can tell you that even though it hasn't been touched, there's nothing alive in there.

And I'm also here because I have a daughter. I have a daughter who's studying at College Station for architecture. So how am I going to do if you close -- if you don't let those bays open, how am I going to be able to provide for what my daughter wants or needs? So I'm the sole provider of my family. I provide money and to my daughter, I provide her with a car at college, rent. If I'm not -- I'm not able to, who's going to provide for my family?

So I'm asking you to please think about what your decision is going to make -- it's going to be on the hard working people. We are all hard working people. We're not delinquents. And how is my family going to survive if I'm unable to provide? How am I going to tell my daughter I have no money for the rent? What's going to happen then?

Many of the people who are asking here for the closure of those areas is because they have money or they are professionals and prepared. If I'm unable to provide, what's going to happen? Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Felipe.

Elvin, then Troy, then Herniquez.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Uno momento, por favor.

We're going -- just so everyone knows and Commissioners, we just -- we're not even halfway through. So we're going to just work right through lunch and so if you need to get up and grab a bar or grab a lunch upstairs, whatever you need to do, for the crowd. I don't think it would be appropriate for us to stop, take a lunch, because no one else here has. So we're going to just work through this thing and carry on.

So, Elvin, you're up.

MR. ELVIN ENRIQUEZ: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Elvin Enriquez. What I'm thinking is that we are in a very critical time, in a situation that is critical, so I would like to see a good decision for everyone. Many of us depend on this job. Not only me, but all of the people outside as well. So we've been here since early in the morning and we are just waiting to hear a decision that hopefully is favorable for everyone here. I'm against the closure of those bays they want to close because that's going to affect us all as fishermen and many families depend on us. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. Gracias, Elvin.


MR. TROY WILLIAMSON: Good afternoon, Commissioners. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. My name is Troy Williamson and from 2010 to 2019, nine years I served as a Commissioner on the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. I'm currently in my second three-year term on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. I am here today to speak in favor of the closure of the Mesquite Bay complex and also the temporary closure of the restoration reefs. I'll be brief. You've heard all the arguments today, and I don't want to gild the lily here too much.

Just two points. Based on your data, the oyster fishery is overfished, under-growing, overfishing, and the fleet is overcapitalized. I think that your proposal is a good start. The other salient point that I got out of your disclosure was that saltwater sport fishing generates like $3 billion to the State of Texas every year. Whereas the oyster fishery fluctuates between 30 to 50 million. Oyster reefs are essential fish habitat and sport fishing is obviously based on those numbers, the highest and best use of that resource. So I would encourage you to continue these efforts and with that, I'll close. Thank you again for the opportunity to speak.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Troy.

Evanivaldo? Please. Por favor.

Johnny, you're up next and then Juan Soto.

MR. EVANIVALDO HERNIQUEZ: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. I'm Herniquez and I'm here because I'm against for the closure of those three bays and I'm hoping that you will hear to my -- you will hear the opinion of my colleagues that just have spoken to you. So I disagree because of the closure of the three bays, what it's doing is it's keeping us altogether and in a small area and it's making us bother the sport fishermen as well. And that being exist before and I also wanted you to think about the sport fishermen because they have the right of fishing all throughout the year, when for us it's only for a certain part of a -- or a few months of the year.

So now at this moment we're taking all of the blame. They're blaming us for everything that nature has a part of it, such as global warming and everything else, they're blaming us on it as well. So the problem is not only us. It's also the sport fishermen because they get into very shallow areas and they end up killing the spat that is around that shallow area as well. Gracias.


Johnny, then Juan Soto, then Keith Miears.

Hello, Johnny.

MR. JOHNNY JURISICH: Good afternoon to everyone. I made this long speech on how the Department mismanaged the resource and how I disagree with almost everything presented to this Commission and how it's a bunch of lies and how the workgroup was poorly handled and nothing came out of it, but I'm not going to talk about that. I'm Johnny Jurisich. A dang good fisherman. You can ask anyone who knows me. I've been an oyster farmer all my life. So has my father and so has my great-grandfather.

My father started at 15 without any education and created an American dream. No, wait. BS. He busted his ass so his family could have the American dream. Growing up, there wasn't any time for sports or anything besides hard work to get me where I am now. I think -- I like to think I'm pretty successful, which means little to me now watching this bureaucratic system unfold. This will be the fourth time coming to Austin to this Commission to fight for my livelihood. First time in 2016 fighting for my leases to be renewed. Just imagine something my family and I have been building for 30 plus years taken away overnight. Then fighting for HB 51, which is way too harsh on oyster fishermen and created unhealthy sanctuary bays, leading us to March and fast-forward to now.

Texas Parks and Wildlife, since Hurricane Ike, brags about restoring 1,700 acres out of 8,000. Only 1,700? By the way, that number is way overestimated. But still, how many tens of millions of dollars wasted and how many lives are being ruined?

I want to keep it short, but quickly I wanted to point out Christmas Bay. Christmas Bay is a bay I love and understand better than anyone else here. First of all, that picture of the ATVs on land owned by Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Agency knew about that. They knew it was going on from day one, but allowed it to continue for months. I knew the game warden in charge for patrolling the area and told -- he told me he was instructed to stand down. Why is that? Also that bay wasn't dredged, but it was hand picked because the water is too shallow for any dredge operation. So it really doesn't apply here if a reef should or shouldn't be cultivated.

Also how can the Department with a straight face compare the only reef alive in St. Charles five years after cultivated to a reef 4 miles away in Area 29 where the boats were herded and overworked until the very end of last season?

Everyone please, I would like -- I want us to work together and figure out how to keep this beneficial alive because if we go down this path, it will come to an end very soon. I'd like to invite all the Commissioners and the new Executive Director, along with biologists to the three bays with me on an oyster boat. I want to teach everyone how oysters are harvested, how beneficial cultivation is, and how we should be restoring the reefs. I would like to ask to table both proposals until we can come up with a better way to manage our fishery and our resource. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Johnny.

Next, Juan Soto, then Keith Miears, then Cierra Borak.

MR. JUAN SOTO: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Juan Soto, and I want to speak about the three bays that you want to close. I know CCA mentioned that it won't affect too many people. They're saying that it's around 60 people that are going to get affect -- be affected by this closure, when it's a lie. There's over 2,000 families that are depending on us, just fishermen.

Behind us, there's way, way more people that are also working at the oyster industry. So this is going to end up affecting much more people than us. Just by the bays that have been closed already around Galveston, which is Fulton, Seadrift, and Port Aransas, there's been affected also in the economy, their general economy. Not only stores, gasoline, clothes, but kept open by -- or moving economy. So we're helping the economy of this country and please don't let yourself to be lied on these people that have the money because it's also affecting us as well. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Juan.

Keith, then Cierra.

MR. KEITH MIEARS: Hi. I'm Keith Miears and I have property in Rockport, Texas. I -- just showing my appreciation and support to the Commissioners for their focus on addressing the oyster harvest in the Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres complex.

From what I've seen, the vertical depredation and harvest of the reefs has been catastrophic in my view. The reef harvest com -- the complex, it's not only damaging the local ecosystem, but it's also putting the entire bay system at risk and I've personally seen the overharvest. There's been much pressure and it's going to take years for that to recover. Not only that, but if the reefs are -- continue to be damaged, they'll no longer be able to act as a baffle, we'll see more erosion and eradication of grasses and vegetation and we'll see depredation of the fishery overall. I see this as well. It's not just an ecological problem as others have talked about. It's also going to become an economical problem and a bigger risk as the -- in the region as we see an increase in major storms and hurricanes that impact the area. I've been fishing the Texas coast all my life and I hope one day that my grandkids will get the same opportunity to enjoy the fishery that I've had. So thank you for your support.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Keith. Thank you for your brevity.

Cierra, then Scott Moorhead, then Richard Wittenbraker.

Good afternoon.

MS. CIERRA BORAK: Good afternoon. My name is Cierra Borak. I'm a local resident of Rockport, Texas, and I grew up the Texas coast. I support the proposal to prohibit the harvest of oysters in Mesquite Bay complex and the temporary closure of the restoration reefs.

Sustainability, this is the key for using our ecological resources in a way that not only benefits us today, but also will be there to benefit our future generations and the ecosystems that they are supporting. Implementing this practice is a give and take between policy, people, profit, and our environment. So how -- how did we get to where we are today?

The policies enacted do not consider best practices of conservation under the pressure of today's world and are quite short-sided. The people disregard the data showing how this impacts our entire fishery. And the most important factor, our environment has faced pressure unlike ever before. The data is there to prove these reefs are being dredged at a rate that will likely eliminate them before my time here is up. So now what?

Sustainability is out of the question and we cannot keep taking from the environment and expect one of the players in this game, such as the people and their profit, to change their behaviors. Oysters are an invaluable resource in our coastal ecosystem. They build, protect, and create life in every sense. It's our time to protect them as well. As a neighbor to these reefs, I ask you to please take action by voting for the proposal of the bay closures. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Cierra.

Scott, then Richard, then Jesse Griffiths.

MR. SCOTT MOORHEAD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Commissioners. It's a pleasure to be here today. I just want to say a few things in support about the closure plan. Specifically we -- I'm with Audubon Texas. My name is Scott Moorhead. Sorry about that. We're in favor of these closures and specifically I want to speak to the wisdom of the restoration work. Those reefs will begin to start providing ecosystem benefits almost from the get-go, water quality, storm attenuation, wind energy attenuation. So we think that's a wonderful project and a great way to protect the long-term health of our systems, our bay systems.

I also just wanted to speak to the relationship between the health of these oyster beds and some of the birds that we care so much about on the Texas coast, which also provide a great deal of economic activity for the State of Texas. But birds like the American Oyster Catcher really have a symbiotic relationship with these oyster beds and with healthy systems and so when we reduce the shoreline erosion by having these healthy systems in place, that's going to protect their current and future forage. That's a list of birds that just made it to the imperiled list I believe on the Master Conservation Plan with Texas Parks and Wildlife. So we think this is a really prudent science-based management step to protect the long-term health of these systems and we appreciate it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Scott. And thank you for your brevity.

Richard, Jesse, Joseph.

Hello. Good afternoon, Richard.

MR. RICHARD WITTENBRAKER: Hello, sir, and thank you. My name is Rick Wittenbraker. I -- for the record, I am in favor of the closures. But as someone who's a lifetime outdoorsman and as someone who's worked in the outdoor industry for the past 15 years, I also recognize that it is a lot bigger than just a closure here or a reprimand there. I do think that there is a real opportunity here for us to come up with a long-term sustainable plan that appeases all these good, hard working people out here; but it also protects our resources for the greater good of everyone here in Texas.

So I appreciate your time and your effort. I know y'all do this and give us all this time, so I appreciate that. So I'm in favor of treating the symptom; but I think in order to treat the disease, we could take -- put in a lot of effort to come up with a bigger plan. But thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Richard. And I think we probably do need a bigger plan as well. Thank you.

Jesse, Joseph, Jen.

MS. HALLIBURTON: He's not here, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: He's not here? Jesse's not here.

Moving on to Joseph and then Jen. Is Joseph here?

MS. HALLIBURTON: Joseph's not here either.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Jen Thomasson, then John Blaha, then Hannah.

Hi, Jen.

MS. JEN THOMASSON: Hi. How are y'all?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good afternoon. Welcome.

MS. JEN THOMASSON: Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to comment today. My name is Jen Thomasson. I'm a realtor and an avid wade fisherman in the Rockport/Fulton area. I've been a resident of Aransas County within the Lamar area for 17 years and fishing the area for 25 years. Our small community thrives on the fishery and a healthy ecosystem which is far from sustainable if harvesting continues as it has been. As a realtor and angler, so many are drawn to the Texas middle coast because of its small-town charm, beautiful sunsets, and pristine water. My clients, as well as myself and friends, enjoy being on the water, which also draws so many of us to the Rockport/Fulton area. Without a healthy ecosystem, our community will suffer greatly and we have already let this go too far. Thank you for having us today. I fully support the proposal to close the Mesquite Bay complex to oystering and temporary closures for the oyster restoration project. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jen.

John, Hannah, Bill Strieker.

Good afternoon, John.

MR. JOHN BLAHA: Good afternoon, Chairman Aplin, Commissioners, and Director Smith. My name is John Blaha, and I'm a resident of Aransas County. I stood before you in August of 2017 to voice my concerns over the oyster reef systems up and down the Texas coast just a day prior to Hurricane Harvey's landfall dead center into the Aransas Bay/Mesquite Bay systems. Just as Hurricane Ike damaged hurricane -- Galveston Bay system in 2008, Hurricane Harvey also damaged many of the oyster beds in the Aransas, Copano, and Mesquite Bay systems.

From a recreational angler's view and from one that spends many days a year on the water, the tops of the reefs were knocked off and the vertical relief of the reefs were damaged by Hurricane Harvey, but they survived. They did, indeed, survive.

The difference between Galveston, Aransas, Copano, Mesquite systems is significant. The Galveston Bay reef systems suffered 50 percent killed and approaching 80 percent in East Galveston Bay alone during Hurricane Ike. Why was that? It's pretty simple. These reefs in Galveston simply did not have the vertical relief in them due to overfishing and were smothered and killed from silt and sedimentation pushed by Hurricane Ike. The Aransas, Copano, Mesquite systems fortunately had that vertical relief to take the force of Harvey, yet that force also ultimately gave the industry the opportunity to access areas not easily accessed before.

The amount of take from these areas since that time is devastating to watch. The areas of coastal fishery -- the area that Coastal Fisheries is proposing to close makes up only 2.8 percent of the reefs in the entire Texas coast. Yet in the 2021-2022 season, it yielded 30 percent of the take. A healthy ecosystem is a basis for a strong economy in Aransas County and up and down the coast.

We talk about -- one item that hasn't really been talked about is restoration. The cost of restoration is astronomical. We all know that. The past projects tells us that. If we do not stop the bleeding now and stop the destruction now, how can we ever afford any restoration at all? Now's the time to act to protect these critically important reef systems in Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bays from the same fate as Galveston Bay. The science and common sense clearly backs this proposal and I fully support it and additionally the proposal for temporary closures to protect oyster restoration projects.

In closing, I want to thank you to the Commission and I also want to thank Director Carter Smith for your leadership to TPWD and best of luck in your future endeavors. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, John.

Hannah, then Bill Strieker, then Bill Burge.

Good afternoon, Hannah.

MS. HANNAH RUDELLAT: Good afternoon. My name is Hannah Rudellat. I was born and raised in Rockport and I've lived there all my life and I fully support the closure of the Mesquite Bay complex, as well as the restoration reefs in Galveston.

Growing up in Rockport fueled my passion for the environment. I love the intricacies of the estuarian marshland. The habitats and ecosystems in our area are some that aren't seen in any other parts of the world. These delicate systems, including the chain of oyster reefs within the Mesquite Bay complex, are not only what makes our community so unique, but also serve a critical role in protecting shorelines, serving as habitat, fish nurseries, and so on. We need to let the oyster habitat serve the role that they are meant to do.

The Texas General Land Office is currently evaluating a shoreline stabilization and habitat protection project for Long Reef and Deadman Island in their 2023 Coastal Resiliency Master Plan. Although this reef isn't within the Mesquite Bay complex, it serves as a good example of the destruction that's caused by overharvesting. The GLO will potentially prioritize this project for future funding opportunities. If the GLO, another Texas agency, recognizes the destruction and loss of vertical relief that has taken place along this reef to the extent that they're willing to spend money restoring it, I urge you, Commissioners, to recognize that destruction as well.

Yesterday, Long Reef had 40 oyster boats harvesting oysters and that's just the second day of the season. This is just the beginning of what's to come this oyster season and it's unsustainable. Thank you for your time in considering closing the Mesquite Bay complex.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Hannah.

Bill, then Bill, then Matthew Kern.

Good afternoon, Bill.

MR. BILL STRIEBER: Good afternoon. Bill Strieber. I'm from Port Aransas. I'm speaking in favor of closing and restoring the oyster reefs. I've been working pretty hard to take advantage of the new laws allowing for cultivated oyster mariculture or off-bottom oyster farms. I have to commend the Texas Parks and Wildlife for setting that up in the Texas Legislature for allowing that. Anybody that knows me, I don't give compliments to government very often. So I thank y'all. It's actually been quite an experience to work through.

Several things I've noticed though, back in the 80s, you guys -- Texas Parks and Wildlife made the hard decision to ban gillnets. There was lots of people upset about that. A lot of people similar to what we're seeing today that are real upset for good reason. What's different this time is we now have a relief valve. Back then when the gillnets were taken away, a lot of those commercial fishermen didn't have any place to turn. What I've learned in researching and getting involved with the off-bottom oyster farming is there's an opportunity for these people out here that are so upset.

I've traveled to national industry seminars and meetings and I've spoken firsthand to third-, fourth-generation oystermen who have made the transition. They've made the transition not because of regulations or otherwise. They ran out of oysters. Virginia, up and down the East Coast, Florida, all the Gulf Coast states, they've overharvested and they've been forced to take on the off-bottom oyster culture. To the tee. The complained that they didn't know about it before. They think it's the best thing they've come across given the old way versus the new way.

Working through this process, the Texas Parks and Wildlife has done an excellent job of working with federal agencies up and down the food chain to consolidate and make the process more efficient for finding places to do it and approving the permitting. What I would like to ask the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and Department is work with the same federal agencies to find funding through NOAA, any of the -- any of the other resources, grants, to help send the oystermen that are being displaced to the industry seminars. They need to meet the people from other states that have been pushed out and made the transition to the new methodology. Thank y'all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Bill.

Bill Burge, Matthew Kern, then Dave Hayward, I believe.

Hello, Bill.

MR. BILL BURGE: Hello. Good afternoon. Thanks for the opportunity to speak today. My name's Bill Burge. I'm a resident of Aransas County. I'm a recreational angler, and a certified Texas Master Naturalist. I'm in favor of the proposed closure of the Mesquite Bay complex to oyster harvesting, as well as the restoration reefs.

The Mesquite Bay complex contains ecologically important and sensitive oyster reefs that provide ecosystem services such as nursery habitat for numerous species, shoreline protection, rookery locations for colonial waterbirds. This area is unique in its value to the mid Texas coast and oyster reefs are principal to the health of these bays.

I've personally observed the changes to the Mesquite area resulting from overharvest of oysters for the past few years. Reefs that used to extend well above the water line have completely disappeared. Water clarity has diminished. Shorelines have eroded. The area cannot tolerate that intense pressure that it's been subject to.

I want to commend the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for improvements they've made to this proclamation since it was first considered back in March. Full Spanish translations help everybody understand what's in the proclamation. An independent economic analysis has been developed which clearly shows that the shared public value of the ecosystem services provide by the reefs far exceed the commercial harvest value. TPWD has done an analysis of the bays closed in 2017 that illustrates that oyster abundance is growing in those closed areas. And in response to the false narrative that somehow oyster reefs benefit from dredging, TPWD has provided multiple research citations showing that our public reefs are being damaged by dredging.

The following is a quote from the Mercaldo-Allen Goldberg study cited in the proclamation: Dredging of historical oyster reefs/oyster beds lowered reef heights, elevated sedimentation rates, increased mortality, damaged shells, and expanded reef diameter by spreading shells, end quote.

That's what we're trying to avoid in the Mesquite Bay complex. Oddly enough, members of the oyster industry have referenced the same study in March, claiming that it states that dredging helps the reefs. That's an incorrect and corrupt use of the citation, as the portion they reference only applies to flat oyster lease beds. Not oyster reefs. That is a critical distinction that is stated in every one of the studies cited.

As to the restoration reefs, that, to me I don't -- that's just like a no-brainer. Why would you spend money to restore a reef and then allow it to be destroyed again? TPWD has provided ample justification for the proposed closure and I would hope that the Commission will pass this proclamation today. Thank you. **STOP**

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Bill.

Matthew, then Dave, then Mark Ray.

Matthew, good afternoon.

MR. MATTHEW KERN: Hello. My name's Matthew Kern. I'm a resident of Rockport, Texas. I am in support of the closure of Mesquite Bay complex to harvest, as well as the temporary closure of the restoration projects. We have a very unique and diverse ecosystem down there. Currently the methods used to harvest these oysters unsustainable and has a visible impact already on that ecosystem that so many of us enjoy and provide a great economic support to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

So thank you guys for allowing us to speak to you guys and that we get this worked out. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Matthew.

Dave, then Mark Ray, then Ted.

Hello, Dave.

MR. DAVE HAYWARD: Thank you, Commissioners. My name is Dave Hayward. I'm celebrating my 40th year of selling Skinny Water tackle to the Texas outdoorsmen. I ran the first store in Houston that benefited from the wisdom of CCA -- CCA and Parks and Wildlife making Speckled trout and Red fish a game fish.

I cultivated and served a clientele that covets the Skinny Water side casts on the coast. We know how special that gift is. We -- having a chance to see fish before we catch them is a big part of our hunting and gathering and releasing ethic. But want to say I'm [sic] proposal to shut down the Mesquite complex and its shell and want to say I vote for freshwater make up the middle coast and underwater photosynthesis of seagrasses. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Dave.

Mark, then Ted, then John Shepperd.

Hello, Mark. Welcome.

MR. MARK RAY: Good afternoon, Chairman Scott, Chairman Aplin, Mr. Smith who we will miss dearly, and Dr. Yoskowitz who we are welcoming dearly. My name's Mark Ray. I'm the Chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association and I'm here to provide comments in support to the proposed changes to the statewide oyster fishery proclamation, primarily regarding the oyster reefs in the CAM complex, which is now in my vernacular forever, and the temporary closure of the restoration sites in Galveston, Espiritu Santo.

I live in Corpus Christi, and I've been in the insurance business there for over 35 years. In my profession over the years, the regulations have changed consistently and constantly and required me and the people that work for me to change our practices and find other avenues to be successful. At times it's not an easy thing to make those difficult decisions that affect other people livelihoods and their sense of security. And I understand there are times when a compromise is requires -- is required.

In view of this contentious situation, you have already made a compromise by allowing oyster fishermen to harvest in areas that didn't meet the metrics to be open at the beginning of the 22-23 public oyster season. This poses a biological risk to oyster populations and will potentially result in culling and discard mortality, jeopardizing next year's oyster season and more importantly oyster reefs recovering from previous years' harvest.

I understand this is a means to an end, a necessary attempt to keep the fishery viable while maintaining some semblance of current management strategy. But make no mistake, this was a compromise. I urge the Commission to adopt this proposal as it stands and moving forward, continue to work with all stakeholders to reduce fishing pressure to ensure a vibrant fishery both for the oyster fishers and the oyster reef.

The proverbial three-legged stool which is often used to describe the stability of an organization is in play here. A public reef fishery, oyster leases, and oyster mariculture are the three legs of the stool that will support the future of this fishery. Currently one of those legs is broken, another is too short, and final leg is yet to be glued to the seat. I appreciate the Commission's leadership through this seasonal change and providing hunting and fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. I will personally ensure that CCA remains dedicated to the process and steadfast in our efforts to provide a vibrant oyster fishery. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mark.

Ted, you're up. Then John Shepperd, then Chuck Naiser.

Hello, Ted.

MR. TED MENDREK: Hello. My name's Ted Mendrek and I work in the fly fishing resale industry here in Austin, Sportsmen Finest, and I can tell you we have a lot of customers that fish the Texas coast and we spend a lot of time talking about how special the fishery is down there. So I'm here on behalf of just the protection of the ecosystem down there based off of what the science says about the closures.

So I'm here in support of the proposed closures and I also am compassionate with the oyster fishermen and it's hard decisions, you know, to make and stuff like that because they're hardworking families and Bill Strieber mentioned mariculture. I think that's something that should be looked into.

I remember I was at a Backcountry Hunter and Angler panel and somebody from CCA was there and they were talking about the mariculture and how in Texas the stuff that's been tried, the oysters take very well versus some of the parts up in the northeast coast. So I think there's an opportunity on the Texas coast to create a mariculture industry that will not only support the families, but it's also something that we could have, you know, to be proud of because I know there's a lot of pride in Texas for things. So I think there's a way that the mariculture could be good for Texas not only for the families of the oystermen, but also for, you know, having additional oysters in the ecosystem to help filter even more water since -- you know, I haven't -- you know, the filtration I think with all the water dumping in from the various places, all these big rivers come to the coast, there's even more toxins, it's just more things that get into the ecosystem; so I think having the oysters -- also additional oysters could help just keep things even more healthy for the whole ecosystem down there, so.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Ted.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: John Shepperd, Chuck Naiser, and Calder Allen.

Hello, John.

MR. JOHN SHEPPERD: Hi. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners and Carter Smith, Dr. Yoskowitz. My name is John Shepperd. I'm the Executive Director of the Texas Foundation for Conservation. I'm here in support of the proposal to close the Mesquite Bay complex to the commercial oyster harvest and the temporary closure of sites in Galveston Bay and San Antonio Bay.

Every -- every industry wants regulatory certainty. Businesses can plan and grow when they have stability, and the commercial oyster industry in Texas is no different. They want stability and certainty, but they must find the stability by sourcing their product through oyster mariculture and the expansion of the long-term lease program, rather than the continued reliance on the public reef system.

The public reef system can no longer support reliable and sustainable commercial oyster harvest when there are this many boats that are only replacing 30 percent of the cultch material that they remove. When you factor in the natural disasters on top of the crushing fishing pressure, the conclusion is inevitable. Until the industry pivots towards a business model that is not utterly dependent on the public reefs, we'll end up in this same room having the same arguments again and again.

I would also like to draw the Commission's attention to the wide variety of conservation organizations that wrote letters in support of this proposal. Any time you get the Safari Club and the Sierra Club on the page, you know you're onto something. You know a lot of these organizations focus primarily on wildlife and hunting and they've signed letters and even asked their members to submit comments on this proposal. Why? It's because they recognize this issue is larger than oysters. It's a fundamental policy question: How and for whom do we manage public trust resources?

Oysters are a public trust resource and it's our responsibility to manage our fish and wildlife resources so that future generations of Texans can enjoy them as we do today. Public trust resources should be managed in perpetuity for maximum public benefit. Not for the short-term financial gain of a few people. Thank you-all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, John.

Chuck, then Calder, then Candace Kern.

Good afternoon, Chuck.

DR. CHUCK NAISER: Good afternoon, Chairman Aplin, Commissioners. Happy to be here again. I'm going to surprise you again. Last time I was here, I said y'all were going to love me because I'm going to be brief. And I will do that again. Sort of brief.

The -- the banter that's gone on for eight months -- the gestation period on this proclamation is real close to that of a human. So nine months versus eight months. So here we go. The -- I see today as being the day to make a choice and I'm going to leave it at that. But I'm going to give you a gift, I hope. In the spring of 1963 in East Bernard, Texas, in Ernest Willard's English class, I read a quote that stayed with me all of my life. It's from Macbeth. And Brutus says to Cassius: There's a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in the shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea we're now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures. William Shakespeare. Carpe diem.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Chuck.

Calder, then Candace, then Andrew Hernandez.

Calder, how are you? Good afternoon.

MR. CALDER ALLEN: How you doing? First and foremost, I would like to thank y'all for allowing me to speak today. I'll keep it short and sweet. I'm a fifth generation Austinite and a Texan. As a state that values its tradition, a huge part of those traditions revolves around outdoor recreation.

For this reason, I do support the closure of the bay systems. It saddens me that at only the age of 19, all my thoughts revolve around fishing what is left. I am constantly told by my peers of what fishing used to be in this state. I only hope that what is left can be protected for future generations to come. I have extreme empathy for the oyster fishing community and I hope y'all can find a truly sustainable solution. Key word here being sustainable. Thank y'all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, young fellow.

Candace, then Andrew, then Chris Fowler.

Hello, Candace.

MS. CANDACE KERN: Hello. My name is Candace Kern. My husband Matthew and I are residents of Rockport, Texas, and I support the proposal of the prohibited harvest of the oysters in the Mesquite Bay system. Matthew and I have been fly fishing on the Texas coast for 15 years. No, we do not make money in the fishing industry; but we have tailored our entire lives around being able to enjoy it. Local anglers account for 94 percent of roughly 35.7 million dollars in the Texas economy annually. We, along with a fast growing number of anglers, are attracted to this area for the shallow flats, clear water which provide the perfect environment for anglers who enjoy the challenge of sight casting to fish. The clarity of water and abundance of sea life hosted is there because of our oysters.

As we know, other states along the East coast have faced the same issue of diminishing their oyster habitats. As you know in 2020, Florida Fish Wildlife Conservation Commission made the decision to close the harvest of oysters in the Apalachicola Bay system due to overharvesting and that had historically provided 90 percent of their oysters. Just last week, an article was published from the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab stating that despite well-funded recovery attempts which started in 2013, there has been very little progress.

Let's see here. We're in the same boat. I'm not saying that we should dismiss the attempt of restoring our reefs. I'm simply stating that we have a long road ahead of us and continued harvest will be detrimental. I am appalled at the notion that reefs need to be dredged and turned over to survive. There is absolutely nothing in nature that needs mankind. Oysters were here long before we were and it's unfortunate to say that I'm afraid that they won't be here when we're gone. The only thing that they need from us is to help repair the damages that we have caused.

I truly do feel for the people who depend on the harvesting of these reefs. The ones who are fighting this proposal do not realize that they will soon be out of a job as it is. I'm here to help represent the community that truly loves our coastal ecosystem and brings millions of dollars to the coastal bend economy. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Candace.

Andrew, Chris Fowler, Russell Burdette.

Andrew, welcome.

MR. ANDREW HERNANDEZ: Thank you. Hello. My name is Captain Andy Hernandez, and I'd like to thank the Commission for allowing us to hear our concerns. I'm a licensed fly fishing guide in Aransas County and I've been fishing in and around Rockport for 30 years and I just want to give you kind of an idea of my daily experiences of the water quality since last winter.

All spring and summer, our water quality has just gotten worse and worse and worse and it's due to, you know, wind, erosion, oyster harvesting. You know, up in the northern part of the bays when that wind blows through there without these oysters there, it just -- our water quality silts up. While these guys are out there dredging, our water silts up. When water -- I mean, we can't see in the water and that's what we primarily do. It also affects the seagrasses and other things. And, you know, I'm out there almost every day and I've seen this water quality just continue to deteriorate. It's not gotten any better. Generally by this time of the year, we have clear water and we can see many, many feet in the water. We don't have it yet. I'm hoping this winter maybe it'll come back, but I don't know. I just don't see it.

And while I do believe in, you know, sustainable harvest of oysters, I am however in complete support of the permanent closures of Mesquite Bay, Carlos and Ayres Bay, as well as for the proposed temporary restriction -- restrictive closures of Galveston and San Antonio Bay and I also fully support any future closures or temporary closures in the coastal bend. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Andrew.

Chris Fowler, Russell Burdette, Janelle Weller.

Chris, welcome.

MR. CHRIS FOWLER: Good afternoon, Committee. Thank you for having me this afternoon. My name's Chris Fowler. I'm a recreational angler, a conservationist, a small business owner, and a proud Texan. I stand before you today in complete support of the proposed permanent closures of Mesquite, Carlos, and Ayres Bays, as well as the support of the proposed temporary restorative closures of Galveston and San Antonio Bays.

I don't mean to stand up here and preach the facts, the science that have already been spoken by many of my peers, replicable groups, and field biologists of Texas Parks and Wildlife. Simply put, we cannot lose these integral pieces of the ecosystem that the health of our bays and estuaries rely upon. The biomass that is completely reliant upon the health of our oyster reefs is mind boggling and to allow the continued destruction of these irreplaceable living structures would be both ignorant and counterintuitive to the goal of all parties involved.

I'm not a biologist; but I know that without the crucial reefs, many lives will suffer. From the creatures of the reefs and bays to the people of the towns it surround. As a small business owner in the recreational fishing industry, the concern for the health of our fishery is at an all-time high. For the people whose lives depend on these waters in one way or another, whether it be fishing guides, local oystermen, shop owners relying on the tourism stemming from the recreational angling, we must allow these reefs to heal themselves.

My heart bleeds for these hard working, local oystermen and their families who have been doing this for years. I know it's hard work. But I don't know what the answer is for them. Perhaps more private leases or venturing into aquaculture. What I do know is that it would be a complete travesty to lose these important reefs forever, essentially killing our bays and local wildlife that inhabit them.

Again, I'm entirely for the permanent closures of the Mesquite Bay complex and the proposed temporary restorative closures of many other reefs for the healing of our beautiful Texas waters. Thank you for your time and consideration.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Chris.

Russell, then Janelle, then Scott McLeod.

Hello, Russell.

MR. RUSSELL BURDETTE: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. Thank you for your time. My name is Captain Ray Burdette. My middle name's Ray. I've fished the Texas coast for the last 50 years and I've fished everything from Brownsville clear up to Galveston. So I know the bays pretty well and the tragedy that occurred in the last two oyster seasons to Carlos Bay and Mesquite Bay is saddening. Those oyster reefs were damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Severely. And then since the oysters throughout the rest of the state were minimal, all the boats, all the oyster boats in Texas came to Mesquite Bay and Galveston Bay and Carlos Bay and they were there -- one day there was 124 oyster boats within this area the size of two football fields and they were back and forth and back and forth.

And I certainly apologize to the gentlemen who are left in this situation where oysters are dimensioned in numbers and quality, but we need to preserve these oysters for the future, the future of Texas, for future Texans, and also to preserve the resource of the entire bay because the oysters are an ecosystem which allows larval shrimp, larval crabs, all the little microscopic animals and critters that live in the bay to hide within the oyster shells until they can reproduce or they can grow and it's just a critical resource and if we can't support them and can't protect them, then we need to look at aquaculture or some other alternative for the oystermen. I support both closures and I thank you-all for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Ray.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Janelle Weller, Scott, then Veronica Briceno.

MS. HALLIBURTON: Janelle is not here.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: All right. You Scott?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. We'll move on. Scott, then Veronica, then Martha.

Good morning, Scott.

MR. SCOTT MCLEOD: It's a pleasure -- it's a pleasure to be in front of all of y'all. Thank y'all very much for the job and the time you have taken to complete that job, as well as the Executive Director and future Executive Director. My name is Scott McLeod and I'm a game warden or I used to be a game warden. I came to Rockport in 1993 as a Texas game warden, and then I retired. I got a little bit of time on my hand and I love expressing my opinion, so here I am today.

I worked inside the commercial industry very much for all of my career. I took it personal. Oysters are personal to me. I have personally witnessed a decline and destruction of many of our oyster reefs in the middle coast. I've witnessed some large, huge oyster reefs be reduced to rubble within 30 years I've witnessed that.

Oyster reefs have been around for over 15 million years, but man has been mechanically harvesting them for approximately 150 years. That says a tremendous amount right there. If restoration and sustainability is our goal as the State of Texas, then we must tweak the way oysters are managed. These basically -- there are basically two different mindsets or management objectives and both want more oysters.

The commercial industry, they want more oysters to sell at the least expense to themselves. Conservation organizations, which I am a member of, want more oysters. It's pretty simple. But they also include protection of oyster reefs itself, like the vertical height. They also protect the increase -- which increases the shoreline protection, erosion control, reduce wave action, reduce turbidity, supports a hydrologic baffle system between our different bay systems and within a particular bay system, as well as protect over 300 other species of animals in Texas.

We are very proud of everything we have, and y'all are the great stewards that must make the hard decision. Potentially the end -- the end may be near. The end I'm speaking of is either one of two things: The end of overharvest or the end of our major, large reefs that we've had for thousands of years to be gone.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Scott.

MR. SCOTT MCLEOD: So y'all's decision is imperative. Thank you very much for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you very much.

Veronica, then Martha, then Sam Canterbury.

Hello, Veronica.

MS. VERONICA BRICENO: Hello. I'm Veronica Briceno, and I want to thank y'all for having me here today. I'm here because I am against the permanent closures of the Mesquite, Ayres, and Carlos Bays. I'll the try not to be repetitive like everybody else. But the last hearing I was at in Aransas Pass, something that really touched me was the economic impact that -- the analysis that were given to us. And when we asked how these numbers came about, I believe they said that it was a study that Texas A&M did for y'all. And what touched me was that 63 jobs is what y'all calculated, but they calculated that would be lost.

If you -- when you came in, the fishermen, the oystermen that are outside, that was 20 percent. That was seven buses and that's probably 20 percent of the oystermen right now through the Houston, Dickinson area, Rockport and Calhoun County. I am the daughter of a fisherman and my siblings and I were able to get our education from these bays.

I'm against permanent closure and I think that we need to come up with a better solution and work with y'all. Back in the beginning of the year, we were told, you know, about the advisory group. I believe we had two or three meetings. I don't think that was enough time that was given and I think that we really need to table this and continue to work and come up with a better solution. I think this -- to come up with a decision today or any time here is too quick. I think we need a little bit more time and we need to really think and work on this situation. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Veronica.

Martha, then Sam, then Michelle Hurtado.

Martha, welcome.

MS. MARTHA MCLEOD: Hi. I'm Martha McLeod. I've been a science teacher in the Rockport/Fulton area for 30 years. This is my first time ever to be at something like this, so I'm modeling for my students. I'm working -- semi-retired, Carter. It's awesome, let me tell you that.

I've been sponsoring a youth birding program for 15 years and also a marine education kind of outreach and part of our standards in the Texas Education Agency just down the road from here is making sure our 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders understand ecosystems and how every species in there plays a role. It's not like one species surviving on its own is an ecosystem. And our state standards are tested. You know that fun STARR test. Kids have to know what happens when you take a species out of an ecosystem, what affects does it have on everybody else. And so when I'm out in the field with my students and we're watching -- my birding kids -- we notice some of the reefs disappearing and my kids see that. What happened to the habitat? Where did the reefs go? And then we'll see all these oyster boats out there and I'm like, well, you know, they're having to -- they're harvesting that. Oh, can't we stop them? The habitat -- so me being here today is showing my students part of the process that you-all have to hear back from the public, which is awesome. You do that and my first time, again, to be up here and my kids are -- they're on standby. They want to hear all about my experience while I'm up here and they told me, well, Ms. McLeod, just speak from the heart. Tell them what you're seeing. Tell them what's happening.

And so it's kind of cool to be here. And I tell y'all what? Jennifer Pollack, man, that's go-to woman. I've used her research in my classroom. I didn't understand oysters. When I first started teaching about marine ecosystem with my kids, I knew I had to go to the expert to learn more for myself. I use a lot of what she has out there. Great videos for kids. I put oysters in my classroom. I had an aquarium set up. I had one aquarium without. One with oysters. The turbidity and the kids watching -- I videotape it -- how they could get my aquarium clear just like that and the fish were thriving compared to the one where I took them out and there -- the turbidity stayed there much longer. So great eyeopeners for the kids.

Thank y'all for what you're doing. 100 percent support your proposal. And, again, the kids of Texas, they're on standby watching what's going to happen. To thank you guys for what you're doing. Carter.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Martha.

Sam, then Michelle, then Ashley. Ashley Hopkins.

Sam, welcome.

MR. SAM CANTERBURY: Thank you. Good afternoon. Thanks for having us here, and I don't think y'all haven't heard everything at least ten times. So I just want to say I'm supporting the closure of that bay system and have a great day.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Sam.

Michelle, you're up. Then Ashley, then Charlotte McBurney.

MS. HALLIBURTON: Michelle's gone.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Michelle's not here.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Michelle no?



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hi, welcome.

Charlotte's next.

MS. ASHLEY HOPKINS: Okay. My name is Ashley Hopkins. I have lived in Rockport for many years, and one of my passions is enjoying time on the water. Over the past several years, it has become very evident that the oysters in our area are being overharvested.

I'm not a marine biologist, but I have to think that are reefs are a very important part of our aquatic ecosystem. Therefore, I am in support of the proposed changes to oyster harvest and I hope that we will continue to study all our reefs in hopes that we can figure out a sustainable way to use them while protecting our fragile bay system. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Ashley.

Charlotte, then Paul Pryor, then Captain Tommy Moore.

Charlotte, welcome.

MS. CHARLOTTE MCBURNEY: Hello. Thank you for allowing me to share my comments with you. I fully support the proposal to close Mesquite Bay systems to oystering and the proposal for temporary closures for oyster restoration projects.

My husband and I have raised our three sons in Aransas County, and we're business owners as well. We fully understand the importance of a healthy ecosystem. Our boys were raised on the water and have enjoyed it so much that they based their careers around -- around the water. They've all three gone through the A&M Maritime Academy and they have talked to us about how they've seen the decline in the waters around in which they've grown up in. And I just want my children and their children and the entire community to enjoy the healthy ecosystem that they have grown up in, but we must act now and put the necessary protections in place and so the keyword for me is protect. And I thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Charlotte.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Is Paul here? Paul Pryor? If not, we're doing to roll right into -- hello, Tommy.

MR. TOMMY MOORE: Good afternoon.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Then Robby Byers is next, then Gerardo Guterrez.

So welcome, Captain Moore.

MR. TOMMY MOORE: Thank you and thank you for putting yourselves through this. It's been an interesting experience. I have been running a Whooping crane boat out of Rockport, taking people from all over the world and navigating these three bays in question for the last 20 years. I spend about 150 days I figured out navigating these bays.

What I would like to ask y'all to do is learn from history and learn from other's mistakes. I've heard Chesapeake Bay. We'll leave it at that. And in 1971, if you look at all these laws about harvesting oysters were changed 1971 and what I've discovered was they were changed to stop the industrial dredging of these reefs for road base and other materials and construction materials and it made a big difference and we're doing the same thing now. I've lived for 17 years across from a local oyster operation where they bring them on land. I see the trucks going. Every truck is 40 feet by 4 feet of oysters. That's an oyster reef right there, and we've seen the changes. You guys have heard it all. I don't think that asking for 3 percent of the oyster reefs in the state as a sanctuary is going to really ruin the commercial oyster industry, which I also love because I've watched it for so long. And thank you for your time and thanks for doing what you do.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Captain Moore.

Robby, then Mr. Gutterez, then Francisco.

Welcome, Robby.

MR. ROBBY BYERS: Good afternoon. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, my name is Robby Byers and I'm the Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas and I appreciate y'all allowing me the opportunity to speak to you today. I know you have lots of people to hear from, so I thought I would keep my statement very brief.

On behalf of CCA and our 77,000 members here in Texas, CCA has always promoted and advocated for putting a resource first in front of all user groups, whether it has been the need for added protection for any recreational fish species, CCA and these fishermen have always been the first ones to sacrifice their harvest if needed in the best interest of conservation.

Managing our Texas resources with so many different user groups is never easy, but it's critical for the future that we protect them when times are needed and we feel this is one of those times to protect oyster reefs. These reefs are too important to the health of our bays and our ecosystems and cannot sustain themselves with the current amount of dredging. Therefore, CCA Texas supports the Department's recommendation to close Ayres, Mesquite, and Carlos Bays from all oyster harvest. CCA also supports the proposed amendment to temporary prohibit the harvest of oysters from within the boundaries of the restoration area. Appreciate all the hard work you guys have been doing for the Department and thank y'all very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Robby.

Mr. Guterrez, then Francisco, then Antonio Ayala.

Mr. Guterrez, welcome.

MR. GERARDO GUTERREZ: Buenos tardes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos tardes.

MR. GERARDO GUTERREZ: (Through interpreter) He's been a fisherman for 35 years. I'm against the closures of these lagoons because from their and families depend on them, especially mine. So, if CCA believes that we are the problem. So how come they sold us those licenses to fish? Another thing is that if you think that I'm the problem, I have two licenses, who wants to buy them so I can retire and stop being part of the problem?

Another thing is that when the first migrants moved here to Flor de Mayo, what were they eating? Oysters, because there was nothing to eat. Now they want -- now they want to take away from us the food that they ate as well. You think that's perfect, so do it. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Gutierrez.

Francisco, then Antonio, then Jose Ayala.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, no Francisco.

Antonio, buenos tardes.

MR. ANTONIO AYALA: Buenos tardes. (Through interpreter) My name is Antonio Ayala. I'm a captain of a boat for about 25 years. I work from the coast of Mississippi all the way to Corpus Christi. I worked in the State of Louisiana. I work the lagoons just the same down in here in the State of Texas. In the State of Louisiana, there's many islands in-between the bays and hurricanes have destroyed everything, so there's mud and all sorts of stuff inside the reefs. So I never heard from them or the saying that the sport fishermen or any other people that Texas Parks and Wildlife mentioned that we are the ones destroying the lagoons.

The only thing I want you to take into consideration is that there's many families that depend on survival from this type of work. Because since COVID started, the time -- we've been reduced on our time to work and ever since that dock time, we -- within the last three years, we worked -- we probably worked for four or five months altogether. They keep reducing year to year the time for work, and we are in a crisis. We are not even requesting help from the government, nor have they helped us at all. I want you to consider that just like it happened in the past to open everything whether it's oysters or not.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Antonio.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Jose, then Luis Cabrera, then -- Junior -- and then Luis Cabrera.

Jose, welcome. Buenos tardes.

MR. JOSE AYALA: Buenos tardes. My name is Jose Ayala and I'm here to go against the proposition that they're making because I've been a fisherman for like 30 years and we never had this kind of trouble before. So I don't know why they trying to come in with another laws to close everything, you know, and I really hope you guys to consider to -- not to do that because not just -- I'm not the only one that's going to be affected by it. We've got thousands of families, you know, and I really think you guys consider that because it's been too hard for us for the last two years because I know that's only five lag -- five areas open in the Texas State, you know, and by doing that, all the boats they're going to get altogether and, of course, the reef is -- they're going to be overworking, you know?

So that's why if you guys open more lagoon, all the boats spread and the reef be less worked and that be okay, you know? I really consider that. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jose. Buenos tardes.

Luis and then Luis and then Mr. Padilla.

Luis, hello.

MR. LUIS CABRERA, JR.: Good afternoon.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good afternoon.

MR. LUIS CABRERA, JR.: I'm Luis Cabrera. I'm against the closing of the bays for the reason that it's an important place for people who work as fishermen of oysters, like my father who have been -- who has been providing for our family and wants to continues to provide for years and as the years proceed, the fishermen have been able to make less sacks and struggle financially.

The impact of taking more bays will leave more fishermen out of jobs and more families hopeless. We are in need of your help to not close the bays to be able to provide for their families. I would like you to think only of the men working, but also their families you will damage. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Luis.

Luis Cabrera, Joaquin, and then Manuel Marti.

Buenos tardes.

MR. LUIS CABRERA: (Through interpreter) I believe -- I believe that here, we all here have (inaudible) in order to work or to help us to work and no one will like to -- for someone to take away their telephone or computers. Just like that, we need those areas in order to be able to work because in order to get ahead or move forward, we need the lagoons in order to get ahead. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Luis.


MR. LUIS CABRERA: (Through interpreter) So I -- so I would like to make a proposal as well to gather all of the fishermen that are working in those places to help out with the restoration and material needed to do that. Thank you very much.


Joaquin, then Manuel, then Mario Vallejo.

MS. HALLIBURTON: Chairman, Joaquin and Manuel are not here.


MR. WINTERS: Mario and there's no Abram, sir. Martinez will be the next one.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Juan Martinez, then Oscar, then John Eads.

MS. HALLIBURTON: John left as well.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: John left, okay.

Juan, buenos tardes.

Then Oscar, then Jose Rodriguez.

MR JUAN MARTINEZ: Buenos tardes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos tardes.

MR JUAN MARTINEZ: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Juan Martinez. The reason why I'm here is because I don't agree with the closure of those bays. I work as an oyster fisherman for 35 years and this has never happened before what's happening today. And in the meantime, that's all for me.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Oscar, then Jose Rodriguez, then Armando Deando.

Oscar, welcome.

MR. OSCAR LEYVA: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon to you all. My name is Oscar Leyva and I'm thankful for the opportunity of hearing us, letting us talk. Just like the people and the captains who just spoke, I think it's unjust for someone to close those lagoons because those lagoons help us to keep our families in the production of -- that we have with the fishing. And I'm also against the closing of the lagoons because there's little oysters in those or the ones that we are allowed to fish and by reducing the area, there's going to be many of us in one area and what we need is opening so we can -- it would be better for all of us and to establish also the oysters.

So I'll ask you to reconsider because just like we seen disasters, natural disasters on these areas that cause the death of many oysters and they should allow us to be there in order to work and help out the ecosystem by allowing the oysters to reproduced as well. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Oscar.

Jose, then Armando, then Jose Duran.

Jose Rodriguez? No? Jose Rodriguez?

MS. HALLIBURTON: Jose and Armando are not here.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Armando's not here. Jose Duran --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, Armando. Los siento.

Armando, then Jose Duran, then Cain Enriguez.

Armando, welcome.

MR. ARMANDO DEANDO: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name's Armando. Like all of my colleagues, I'm against the closure of those bays that are -- you are proposing. Because all of the workers, including the captains, is how we depend on it. That's our sustain. You want to remove what we have for survival. And they're just giving us a little leftover. The lagoons that are open at the time, they don't have enough oysters for so many workers or so many boats. Working that, there's many, many oysters that are dead. And that's what the proposal is going to lead to for the oysters to die as well. So why don't let us just instead of that, get it out while it's alive? Please consider us and just like people say, help us to be able to help you as well. Because when they -- those -- they let us work in a certain place just like Lavaca, we support the economy, we pay rent and gas and diesel. I hope you consider us as well and thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Armando.

Jose Duran, Cain Enriguez, Ernesto Badillo.







CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos tardes.

MR. CAIN ENRIGUEZ: Buenos tardes. (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. I am against the closure of the bays because it's a source -- it's a source of work and many people depend on the oysters. Especially the people that work, that are here with a visa because our contract or visa only allows to have a contract working with oysters and we depend on the industry. So I'm against the closure because it's going to damage not only the industry, the restaurants as well, even the policeman are going to suffer from this because they won't be able to give as many tickets or take people to jail for that reason. I ask you please to think about it and to change your mind and don't take away our work. Thank you very much.


Ernesto, then Francisco, then Juan Ortiz.

Ernesto, buenos tardes.

MR. ERNESTO BADILLO: (Through interpreter) Hello. My name is Ernesto. So I'm here on a visa and I think that it's unfair for you to want to close these places because that's -- or provides our livelihood and our family depends on it and without that, we won't be able to survive. Just like my colleagues said, I disagree with the closure of the lagoons because that provides a living for thousands of people. And I ask you to rethink this again because that's going to make us -- without that, we won't be able to or capable to take a sustained or means to our family. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Ernesto.

Francisco, then Juan Ortiz, then Jose Jorges.





CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, buenos tardes.

MR. JUAN ORTIZ: Buenos tardes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Then Jose, then Jose Cuellar.

MR. JUAN ORTIZ: Buenos tardes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos tardes.

MR. JUAN ORTIZ: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. I'm against this because I've been working as fishing shrimp and oysters for 30 years. I live in Galveston because I belong to that area that we have seen a reduction in that of territory from Texas Parks and Wildlife. In all of the coast, we have 36 or 37 different areas to work and only seven of them are open at this time. In the Galveston area, only three of those. So we have two areas, Area 8 and 9, that there's actually no oysters anymore. Last year, we were open for six months and you can't find one oyster in there. And by the contrary, Area 6 is closed and even last year you were able to find oysters 4 inches large, but they never open it for us. Same happens with Port Lavaca Area 21, Area 18, and there's no oysters. They only kept open -- they only left open the Area 29 -- Area 19 where there's no oysters. Same happens in Fulton. The one that has oysters is Copano Bay, but they only open Area 29. So what I'm thinking is that they trying to gather us in one area only. That's the reason why these reefs are overworked.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Senor.

MR. JUAN ORTIZ: Gracias.


Jose, Jose, Emilson Burgos.

Jose, buenos tardes.

MR. JOSE JORGES: Buenos tardes. (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. I'm against the closure of the lagoons because from those lagoons, many of us workers depends on. A family depend on those workers. That's the reason why I'm against all these closures so we can make our families move forward and get ahead. And that's it for me. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jose.

Jose, Emilson, then John Kinsey.

MR. JOSE LUIS CUELLAR: Buenos tardes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos tardes.

MR. JOSE LUIS CUELLAR: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Jose Luis Cuellar. I'm against the closure of the lagoons. So if you want vessels not to be clustered with each other, you're still closing those lagoons instead of opening them. It has happened in those areas that have been closed for long, that the oysters end up dying and the shell turns black and that's not good for the oysters. And that's it for me. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Jose.

Emilson, then John, then Santos Rodriguez.

MR. EMILSON BURGOS: Good afternoon.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good afternoon.

MR. EMILSON BURGOS: My name's Emilson Burgos. My dad's been fishing since 1995. He said he's never had this problem. You've heard this countless times as much as people come up here. I think you guys should open all the areas because if you were to open all the areas, not everybody would be in one little spot. Like you said, 140 boats were in one spot. But why?

Because that's just the only place that y'all opened. If y'all were to open all of them, y'all wouldn't have this problem. A lot of the oyster dies because the refineries that are placed along the water, they spill chemicals and those chemicals run into the bays and they kill the oyster. So you guys shouldn't just go against the fishermen, but the big companies as well. And I am against the closure and that's it.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: John, then Santos, then Elaine.

Welcome, John.

MR. JOHN KINSEY: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Commission. My name is John Kinsey. I'm a certified wildlife biologist and the President of the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society. The Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society appreciates the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission's efforts to manage our public oyster reefs and adopt actions that ensure the health and prosperity of Texas oyster resources for current and future generations.

These bays contain ecologically important and sensitive oyster reefs that provide ecosystem services, including nursery habitat for numerous marine, aquatic species, shoreline protection and rookery locations for imperiled avian species. The vision of the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society is to ensure a sustained diversity of wildlife and their habitats in Texas.

The most reliable data available clearly indicate that the level of harvest these reefs are currently experiencing is unsustainable and detrimental to these sensitive ecosystems. The Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society supports the permanent closure of oyster reefs in Ayres, Mesquite, and Carlos Bays and the temporary closure of restoration sites in Galveston Bay and San Antonio Bay to oyster harvest and encourage the Commission to adopt the proposal as written. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, John.

Santos, then Elaine, then Stephen Ford.


MR. SANTOS RODRIGUEZ: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Santos Rodriguez, and I'm against the closure of those waters. The -- you can't close those waters because we depend on those waters. We have family which we provide for. I've been fishing in Louisiana and Texas for 37 years. So I've never seen or had anyone in Louisiana saying that we're destroying. We only take out the product. That's what we do. Instead of thinking on closing those areas, you should be thinking open the rest of them. There's mostly Hispanic people working that type of job, and that's hard work. So I don't want to think that that's the reason because we're Hispanic that you want to close those areas because I consider myself also an American and we are the ones that are harvesting this area. That's it. Thank you.


Elaine, then Stephen Ford, then Wes McNew.

Hellos, Elaine.

MS. ELAINE DIETZ: Hi. Good afternoon. I'm Elaine Dietz from Fort Bend County. I support Texas Parks and Wildlife proposals. As a sixth generation Texas [sic] to grow up on a working farm and ranch, I have benefited tremendously from Texas natural resources. That benefit happened in great part because of the foresight it took to take care of that resource not just for now, but also for the future generations of farmers and ranchers who come after us.

When I look at our oyster reefs, it reminds me of land that has been overgrazed. If I had 100 head of cattle on 10 acres, the pressure on the pasture would be too great to sustain a healthy food supply. The soil would be stripped of grass, erosion would occur, and even the seeds needed for future growth would be curtailed from developing. The sustainability of that pasture would be impossible. That's where we're at with our reefs.

For the first -- for the past five years I've seen what those reefs look like before harvest and what they look like after harvest. Last year's harvest was a drastic demonstration I witnessed firsthand. Before the season opened, I fished around the oyster reefs. Those reefs held happy -- happy fish feeding around the reefs. When the harvest was stopped, those areas were unrecognizable. Think of a lunar landscape. That is what I observed. No fish. Only a desolate, damaged, stripped sandbar.

Those reefs belong to the public and it is our duty to be good stewards of our resources. Our public reefs are in grave danger of extinction. I encourage you to support the closure of our oyster reefs. And I'm going to add just one little thing off the cuff. My kids have grown up going to Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Brigades and GRTU Youth Camp with Dakus and so they've benefited. And one of the things that I've witnessed my kids learning is how important the water is. They've been out there with seines. They've looked at it. They understand that it's important that everything kind of follows and one piece is very important for the next piece. And so water quality is a big, important thing and you guys have taught that to my kids and I encourage you to really think about that when you make your decision. Thank you.


Stephen Ford? No Steven.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Carlos? Okay, no Wes. No Ponciano?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Carlos Martinez, then Danielle Prewett, then Mr. Rodriguez.

Carlos, buenos tardes.

MR. CARLOS MARTINEZ: Hello. Buenos tardes. (Through interpreter) My name is Carlos. Number one about the -- just like my colleagues, I don't agree with the closure of those areas. I personally think that better planification should be taking place because it's not fair that we are only here to work for two weeks and -- and -- or for a couple of months. So I think that better plans are due because in order to allow for the oyster, the production.

I also think that they should reopen some areas that have closed permanently and we value the chance of the oysters to keep reproducing, especially where there's little oysters left. Take into account please that we only work in those lagoons for a little time, while other fishermen they have all the time in the world. This -- the economy of many families like me are coming from Mexico, the economy is being affected. And for the many families that we have the hope to be able to come to work and contribute to the economy of this country.

And at last I want to say that even though I've been working here for just a little time, there's all the people who have been working here for longer, but you don't need too much time to realize the problem here. We are the first one taking into account the ecosystem and we are trying to be careful and as well as the fishermen are. We can all win here and do it in a responsible way. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Carlos.

Danielle, then Leopaldo Rodriguez, then Octavio Vega.

Danielle, welcome.

MS. DANIELLE PREWETT: Hi. My name is Danielle Prewett, and I'm here because I support the proposal to close these bay systems. I am a board member for Texas Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and I represent the voice of the outdoorsmen/women who use our public resources. I'm also a newly elected member of TPWD's Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee and I work full time as a wild game cook in the media industry for a company called MeatEater and so my greatest passion in life is understanding the connection between the food that we eat and the natural world and I strive to eat consciously and sustainably and my experiences in the outdoors, both hunting and fishing, has greatly shaped my perspective on what that means.

And so this past summer I began working on a project for work about our Gulf coast oysters. And I met with several different people to understand the ecological importance of our reefs and why they are in such a critical condition. And because this is going to be a cooking show, I not only wanted to tell the story behind these oysters and their value, but I wanted to eat them and cook with them. So I began to start calling around because I wanted to the find a sustainable source of oysters for this show. So I called several different restaurants and fish markets up and down the coast and I asked what kind of oysters they had and I asked if they had any farm-raised. Every single one of them said no and some of them even laughed at me because why would we offer anything different. And I was born and raised in Texas. I'm a very proud Texan and so I understand that sentiment of wanting to put our money into our economy.

But their responses made it clear to me two different things. And that is that, first, that a majority of people don't realize what's happening and how unsustainable it is that we are commercially harvesting these wild public oysters. And then the second thing is they don't know that we've recently integrated farm-raised oysters because there's -- it's so new and there's not that many companies out there doing it.

And so from the research I've done through this project, I've not only -- I've understood that oyster mariculture is -- can have a net positive impact on our resources and on the ocean. They could regenerate them and increase species diversity and I think perhaps at this critical point in time, it's going to relieve the pressure of the market demand and to help our resources rebound and restore itself. And so consumers like me should be able to have a sustainable alternative choice and I believe that one of the only ways we can do that is if we start prioritizing an industry that can have a positive impact on our ocean and instead of continuing to allow one that is going to slowly degrade it. And as one of my friends Doug Duren always says: It's not ours, it's just our turn. And today it is our turn to make a decision for our future and not rob the future generations of these resources.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Danielle.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Leopaldo, then Octavio, then Margarito.

Leopaldo? Buenos tardes.

MR. LEOPALDO RODRIGUEZ: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Leopaldo and just like my colleagues, I'm a fisherman and I'm against the closure of the lagoon because from there, we depend on the many Mexicans that are here on a visa working to take livelihood to our houses. Thank you.


Octavio, then --

MR. OCTAVIO VEGA: Buenos tardes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos tardes.

MR. OCTAVIO VEGA: (Through interpreter) Good evening to every one person here. I'm here present because I'm in disagree with the closure of the bayou -- of the bay. I'm sorry. I also want to ask you to rethink and consider, in fact, that we fishermen, oyster fishermen, we are not just paying for a license for sport purposes, but because we need to work in order to live.

I've been working in the oyster industry for 25 years and I know that the reefs are being affected because you are only letting us -- or you are only opening four or five areas. If you were opening the reefs just like before, they will -- the will not -- will get affected. They will keep reproducing oysters. That way, we will be able to work all season instead of like right now where you are opening only two or three areas and once the oyster is gone or once the time is over, you're closing and you're saying the fishing is over. That way, you will have a bigger area open and we fishermen, we will be able to expand instead of damaging more reef and that way the oysters will keep reproducing to be ready for next year.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Octavio.

MR. OCTAVIO VEGA: (Through interpreter) That's all of my behalf and please consider reopening all lagoons. Thank you.


Senor Carizales?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Then Melissa Harrell, then Diego Martinez.

Buenos tardes.

MR. MARGARITO CARIZALES: Buenos tardes. (Through interpreter) I've been a fisherman for many years. Thanks to this job, I've been able to move forward in life with my family, wife and kids. The closure of these bays might not be much for you, but for us, it's everything. If God allows, in a few days you will be enjoying a juicy turkey, celebrating Thanksgiving Day. Instead all we will be celebrating with our kids is just beans for lack of work. We're not ruining the reefs. But with this, you might ruin our future, the future of the fishermen. It's for that reason that I don't agree with the closure of these bays. And that's it. Thank you.


Let's see. Are you Margarita [sic]?




VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Is Margarito Gonzalez[sic] here?

THE INTERPRETER: Margarito Gonzalez?

MS. HALLIBURTON: He just spoke.


MR. WINTERS: He just spoke right now.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Oh, that's who just spoke? Thanks. I'm up to speed now.

Okay. Melissa Harrell and then Diego Martinez and Cassio -- Cassio Silva.

MS. MELISSA HARRELL: Hi. I'm Melissa Harrell. I'm a board member on the Austin Coastal Conservation Association here in Aus -- or just I live in Austin. I'm sure there's a lot of people here that y'all have heard all day long that are talking to the science. I'm going to speak from a personal perspective.

I grew up fishing and hunting in Port O'Connor and my father used to take us to San Antonio Bay to go gather oysters and have them on the boat or take them home for dinner and I learned a lot about -- from him about the ecosystem and, you know, what they do for our bays and that type of thing. Anyway, I learned about their habitat, how to shuck an oyster, and the benefit of having them in our backyard. My dad actually was Phillip Fitzgerald. He was one of the founding members of the CCA. Sorry. He was the first Chairman of the CCA, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and served in that position. Sorry. He saw the need and benefit of conserving our resources for future generations. I would like to think, you know, that's why we're all here today and I'm here to -- sorry. He passed away recently. I'd like to -- thank you, Grahame.

Anyway, I'd like to think that's why we're all here conserving resources -- thank you -- for, you know, all these people conserving their resources for their family and then, you know, for the future generations of being able to continue to harvest these oysters in the way that everybody's been speaking of. So the in the last years of Dad's life, he would sit and he would watch over the bay and he would give us a daily oyster boat report on how many oyster boats were floating across the bay and he would call and I'd be like how many oyster boats are there today, Dad? And he, you know, every year would increase and increase and increase and this is in Matagorda Bay and Lavaca and, you know, going down the coast where eventually they run out and there aren't any more to take in that way.

I guess I would like to wrap up by just saying that I feel for the people that are here talking about their livelihoods and it sounds like a super difficult decision. I think that you're either faced with there, you know, not being any oysters to harvest for these families that are here speaking or, you know, coming up with some solution. I don't know what the solution is, but I do feel like it's a vital component of our bay system and on behalf of the CCA, I would like to say that we are for the proposal as it stands to close the oyster harvest. Thank you.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Thank you, Melissa, and don't think for a second that this Commission is not sympathetic to all the sides of how emotional this issue. We're very aware of it. Thank you.


MR. CASSIO SILVA: I'm Cassio Silva.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yeah, Diego's not here.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Diego's not here.

Cassio, welcome.

MR. CASSIO SILVA: Yes, sir. Good afternoon and buenos tardes a todos. I just want to say, you know, thank you guys. I know it's been a really long day. I am a fishing guide on the Texas Hill Country. But before I did that, I was a high school history teacher for over just shy of ten years in San Antonio and one thing I always taught my students is that old thing we've always heard that we must learn from previous mistakes. But I always told my students that's not enough. We must learn from our previous mistakes and take the action in the present in order for us to try to create a better future. And that's exactly what we're all here to do today.

A little bit of a history lesson. You talk to anyone on the Texas coast and you hear this Texas history of there used to be. There used to be clear water. There used to be more grass flats. There used to be a Tarpon fishery in Texas that rivaled Florida and just about any destination in the world. There used to be, there used to be, there used to be.

Today we're kind of faced with that decision right now: What can we do in the present to try to build a better future? Now I'm not saying that the proposal today -- that I am very much in favor of -- is going to fix everything. But I think that we need to look into when is it too little too late. We have an opportunity here to do something about it and see if it helps. But if we wait, we might have another "used to be" on our hands.

Now as immigrants of this country, you know, from a family that doesn't speak really great English, I just want to say and applaud you guys for doing a really great job of making sure that all voices were being heard today and I sympathize with these people that are here to talk about their livelihoods and are scared to lose, you know, their jobs and being able to put food on the family's table. But one thing that I constantly heard is the people coming up here who work in the industry say how the oysters have gotten smaller, there's too many boats, there's less places, there's too much of this, too much of that, and they themselves are saying -- saying that it's not sustainable. So something's got to change.

Now the proposal today is just a step in the right direction of us trying to do something. But I will guarantee you that if we do nothing, the oyster industry is going to be another there used to be an oyster industry, these people used to have jobs. And if we don't fix the oyster problem, we're going to be saying the same thing about the rest of our bay. There used to be clean water all the way down to the border of Mexico. There used to be Red fish. There used to be Seatrout. There used to be a fishing industry. There used to be a reason to go down to the coast.

So I appreciate y'all's time and I appreciate the consideration and I'm in favor of us taking action before it's too late. It may not be the answer, but doing too little too late is a decision that we must make today. So I appreciate y'all's time and thanks for having all of us here and hearing us all out.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Silva.

Roman, then Fermin Aguilar, then Carlos Lopez.


MR. ROMAN GONZALEZ: Good afternoon. My name is Roman Gonzalez. I've been a fisherman for quite a few years now. I work up and down the coast. I work for a man name Kuzma Petrovick. It's a Croatian-American Society down in Empire and Miso Jurisich. We've got mad oysters down there. We just need to know how to plant these rocks that you guys have been planting and y'all don't know how to spread it out. You understand, you know, what I'm saying?

I mean, if we -- I've got wave points on my GPS. We can go out there. We could bed that rock on a proper spot so we could get the height potential of oyster production off of those reefs. You've just got to listen to an oysterman. Not these blue collar men. These guys read books. We don't read books. We do hard work. We get our hands dirty. You're welcome to come out to one of the leases of Mr. Jurisich down there. He's family with Mr. Jurisich down at Empire, which is a 120-year family that's been doing this for a long time. Dude, he's got mad oysters, bro. 40,000 acres that he has, he works 20,000 acres for one or two years. He leaves those other 20,000, you know, sitting for like a year or two and then we go back out there and dredge again.

Every day by 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon, I'm at the dock with 200 to 100 sacks. We just need to, you know, manage this oyster business the way it's supposed to be managed. By a fisherman, not a blue collared man.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Roman.





MR. FERMIN AGUILAR: (Through interpreter) My name is Fermin Aguilar, and I'm against the closure of those bays. I've been working in the oyster field for eight years and I can tell you that in those eight years that I've been working, we've been on the side of the laws that have been proposed by the Commission. I can tell you that getting a ticket is not cheap and if you close or you don't give us enough work, the only thing -- the only thing we're going to have left is the debt. And that's it.


Carlos Lopez?


Ramon Ayala? No? No, Ramon Ayala.

Oh, I can't read their writing. Resendez?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Lauren Williams. Lauren?

MS. LAUREN WILLIAMS: Am I the last one?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: No, but we're getting close.



MS. LAUREN WILLIAMS: Good afternoon. So my name is Lauren Williams. I'm the Resilient Coast Program Director for the Nature Conservancy Texas and we submitted a comment letter that outlines our support for the proposed closures, both permanent and the temporary closures on the restored reefs. But I'm here today -- I was not going to provide public comment verbally, but I'm inspired to do so after hearing so many oyster fishers and others just share their perspectives.

So I do want to just state that the Nature Conservancy's mission is to conserve the land and water on which all life depends. And so, you know, we recognize the value of oysters for all of those ecosystem services they provide. But our oyster strategy does include restoring oysters as a habitat and a fishery. So we're very sensitive to the plight of the oyster fisher and just all of the pressure that we're -- that we're seeing right now on the fishery.

And so I also wanted to say that I've had the pleasure of being able to participate on both of the working groups that the Department has been leading and I have learned so much from those conversations that we've had in those working groups. But I do think that they're just a start. Those conversations should continue and we should continue to -- to have conversations with oyster fishers at the table.

You know, we're very much -- we also suggest that you-all consider recommending a third-party facilitator to have those -- to guide that conversation so that there's a balance in how the conversation can happen. And, you know, we're very supportive of the idea of developing an oyster restoration recovery and management plan that is co-developed with oyster fishers at -- you know, at the table generating ideas. And we're also very supportive of trying to move toward a co-management approach. So including oyster fishers in restoration, in the monitoring, in the science, trying to come up with win-win solutions.

And I also wanted just to commend you-all for providing translators at the public meetings and at the meeting today. I think that really helps to open up communication where everyone can share ideas and be heard. And I know that, you know, the decision that you-all have to make is very difficult. It's a contentious issue and there are livelihoods that are going to be impacted and not only livelihoods, but people who are connected to the resource who have been connected to the resource for generations. And so there's a cultural value as well and we recognize that.

And I just heard so many ideas today and in those working groups and I think there is opportunity for a lot of innovative solutions. Thank you-all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Lauren.

Senor Mendez? Hola. Buenos tardes.

MR. CRUZ MENDEZ: Hola. Buenos tardes. (Through interpreter) And with all due respect, I'm not here to fight with anyone. Just to ask you for compassion because there's many, many expenses working in a boat and not enough oysters. We're not here to take advantage. We're not here to damage anything. We're here just to work and to work for our family. Please have compassion. So that's the only reason why we want this -- for you to open more lagoons so we can move ahead and get forward.

Last year all I had leftover from last year is expenses because there was little fishing and the boat business has many expenses. And this year, we're seeing that there's not enough oysters. So I'm begging you to open more areas since you have the power. God bless you and thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gracias, Senor Mendez.

Jeff? Yeah.

MR. JEFF BIBLE: I think I'm the last one.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. That's a good thing.

MR. JEFF BIBLE: My name's Jeff Bible. I've been fishing the Texas coast for 45 years or so. I'm a lifetime fishing and hunting license holder from the State of Texas and I just think I'm here to support the closures. I think that the current oyster fishery practices are unsustainable and I think we've seen the progression of that unsustainable practice all the way down the Gulf coast from one end to the other essentially.

So I'm hoping that this Commission will move forward with their proposal, number one. And then number two, I would encourage everybody on this Commission to look for more sustainable practices, to encourage Parks and Wildlife to try to invest more money into the oyster farming and oyster culture industries, to try to encourage some of these folks that are going to be hard-pressed to find a way to make a living to move into some more of those sustainable methods. Thank you. That's all I have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jeff.

That is all that we have scheduled to speak, but I want to make sure there's no one in the audience. We know of no one else that has -- hasn't filled out a form that would like to speak, is that correct?

Okay. So we've gone through the process. We had 150 some odd people come to speak and that shows that the process is working and we absolutely respect the effort that it took for so many people to come so far and give us their opinions about things that they're very passionate about.

Commissioners, would you like a few minutes to rest? We've been going six and a half hours nonstop, but we're about to roll into deliberating everything we've heard. So anybody want a minute or do y'all want to roll right into it? You good?

Okay. Robin, if you'll come up in the event somebody has a question for us, a Commissioner has a question. Let pull up my deal.

Okay. We've heard a lot from a lot of people. The comments that we've received, everyone knows the positives -- the fors and the negatives, against. You've seen all of that. We know it's about 80 percent -- I was doing a calculation here as we were going through, kind of the ratio here in person, the numbers that we received online and through mail and communication was about 80 for, 20 against. That's not what we saw here in person. We saw a much more balance. We started with Slide 1, which talked about the history of the fishery up and down starting with Chesapeake Bay.

So it's now time for us. I wrote down several comments that were said, you know; but it's time for us as a Commission to weigh in on this and make a decision. So anybody like to start with any conversation, discussion, points, thoughts?

Oliver, you got something?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Well, Robin, you know, as I was listening to folks talk -- because I know part of that is we don't -- part of the process is we don't necessarily ask individuals speaking questions. But there -- some of the comments actually seemed to support, even folks -- whether they were for of against, the commentary seemed to support the motion in the sense of they were asking questions or making statements about where oysters seem not to be available, even in the opening where we added the three extra areas. Those three extra areas were almost -- in a sense, they were almost a compromise because we had the one bay that met the standard, another bay that partially met the standard, and then we added in a few more even though they didn't meet the standard and then -- but the anecdotal stories here are probably -- it seemed like maybe we shouldn't have opened 5, 12, and 19.

MR. RIECHERS: Well, certainly, Commissioner Bell, there are -- and remember inside of those larger zones, there are areas that will have some higher abundance. You know, it's not homogeneous across all of those. And when we were looking for those areas, we looked for some areas that had at least some of those sub-zones or sub-reefs at almost the level of the threshold; but then there will be others inside of there that will not have very many oysters on them and certainly sometimes even it may not speak to whether or not how many of those oysters will be in those areas. Obviously, we're trying to do it by sub-zone. So we're trying to go in and get ten samples per sub-zone. But they could have been fishing in a different area and, of course, there's also time that escaped from the time we sample -- just a little bit of time from the time we sample until we make that decision.

But I also heard those things about some of the areas that we opened and that people weren't finding as many oysters as maybe we had hoped they could find.

COMMISSIONER BELL: And just one final question from me. Several people kept referencing 65 jobs. That's nowhere in any documentation that I have. So I'm assuming that must be a figure that came out in one of the focus groups or something?

MR. RIECHERS: Yes, sir. I'll try to explain that just a little bit. The 65 jobs, because in the March discussion and in some letters that we had received, were -- there was a comment about needing to do an economic impact study. And so what we did was we looked first back at the last one that had been done and Texas AgriLife and Texas A&M Sea Grant had done the last study and it came out in 2018, but it was an overall study. It was a study of the entire coast. But we went to the same group that done -- that did that at Texas AgriLife and we asked them if they would do a new study of that. But, obviously, we were trying to partition out those three -- that three-bay area, the CAM area. And so as we tried to do that, they basically then ran the model again that they run and they gave us the role to the economy number and with that, it spits out a job number or gives a job number as well. And so that 65 number was the number that they gave us in the report that they gave back to us and we did share that at our public hearings.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: You know, Commissioner, Bell you bring up a point. Everything we heard today kept circling back to there's not enough oysters. And then we heard from CCA, from the Chairman of CCA, you know, that reminded us that we actually opened up areas that do not meet our metric in effort to try to spread the fleet out. And even with that, there's still not enough oysters. I mean, the reality is had we not adjusted that metric, if you will -- we still kept the base, the bottom. We're not going to go below that. But we would have only opened one reef in the entire state.

I mean, that's the situation that we're dealing with with oysters here and that's why this slide that talks about from Chesapeake all the way just gets my attention. It gets all of our attention. And so we heard that, you know, we shouldn't open up those additional reefs and we also heard you open them up and there's not many oysters there. I mean, that's -- the common theme here is that we're really struggling with producing enough oysters through mother nature for the consumption. So whatever we do here today, we have a lot of work to do to start providing a sustainable oyster harvestability in this state and I believe it starts with a leasing program. I believe it starts with oyster farming or mariculture. It's a comprehensive -- a fellow mentioned today about the license. Everyone should know we have a license buy-back program. We allocated $3 million to it this year to try to buy back license for any oystermen that would like to sell back their license. That's one of our tools we try to use. We're going to try to go to the Legislature in earnest in year, increase the lease opportunities, and then we already have the ability to do the oyster farming/mariculture and expand that because that's how we really are going to produce more oysters in this state. Not just leave it up to mother nature and the reefs and then the overharvesting.

So that's the common theme we're hearing here. But one of the speakers -- Mr. Shepperd -- said the conclusion is inevitable and I tend to agree with him. I don't know how we cannot proceed with this. But I want to give every Commissioner an opportunity to talk about anything they want to talk about before we have a vote.

Blake, you got anything you want to talk about?

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: I will just echo comments. I think if we've learned anything over the last couple of months it's that we've got -- just regardless of the discussion today, we've still got a lot of work to do because where we are today, it's not sustainable for the resource or for the industry. So I think we've learned a whole lot and I think we've got a whole lot more to learn and a lot of work to do. But with that said, I'm -- I mean, I think the choice today is clear that we've got to take action.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any other Commissioners? Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Yeah, I guess I'm -- after hearing all the comments that we've heard -- which obviously is a lot and that's good. I'm really happy that we had such a large amount of input. That shows that people are paying attention and obviously we are too because we're still here after we would normally not even be anywhere near here by this time, but that's okay. That's what -- that's what we get paid the big bucks for. But I guess the side that I'm on and I heard this spoken quite a few times is that, yeah, perhaps this is not any kind of fix, but we've got to start somewhere. You know, if we don't start somewhere, it's like I always say, you know, if we don't start, we can't ever finish. And that's my comment usually about these meetings. But anyway, I truly believe and having grown up on the coast, I'm very familiar with all of this -- this issue about shrimp and about oysters. And anyway, long story short, I -- I just think that we've got to get the ball rolling. You said it about the mariculture. But there's no question all of that kind of stuff -- and just like you said, you know, we've got -- we've got a lot of work left to do, but we've got to start somewhere.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Chairman, I would just echo what you said. I think the future of this industry is going to be through leasing and through mariculture and that's not to say that I want to end the commercial fishing at all. But exactly what you said, we've got too -- we've got too few oysters and too many people chasing them through no fault of their own. Because we've taken acreage away from them, we're pushing those boats to smaller and smaller and smaller areas, which is hard on those areas that are left.

So I would just say I hope that the legislator -- Legislature this session, we can really bring up the opportunities for leasing through either the buy-back program or something that we haven't thought of yet, help a lot of guys stand up their own leases or stand up their own mariculture operations. I don't want anybody out there to think that we're not sympathetic to their plight.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. I'm -- Carter and David, I would like to challenge us to get together and work in earnest -- not that we don't every day -- but towards a plan to go to the Legislature very soon and a comprehensive plan and let's work with the stakeholders, let's work with the conservation groups, let's work with the oyster fishery industry and see what we can do to produce more oysters and find jobs.

It really pulls at you when these men come here and say they want to work and we know they want to work. It's clear they want to work, and there's just not enough oysters to go around. And so let's challenge our -- this Agency to put together a comprehensive plan and let's do it right away. The session starts in January and I would like to be at the doorstep of the Capitol pushing this every step of the way to get a sustainable solution for everyone.

When I look at this map and when I look at what's happened, we're the last on the coast. I mean, I'm not saying that it's completely shut down. But Florida, Alabama, they are -- they're largely shut down. And if we don't do something, it's going to be over with here as well. And then remember this isn't about just about oyster and oyster production. What today is really about is this pristine Baffin reef that is so small and getting so much pressure and it just can't sustain it.

So if any other Commissioners got any comments? If not, I'm going to ask for a motion to accept the proposal as submitted by Robin and by staff. Any other Commissioners got any comments/questions?

COMMISSIONER BELL: I just have one thing, Commissioner. There was one person who -- I mean, everyone who spoke I thought did a great job. But there was one phrase that someone used that kind of stuck with me and that is depending on the decision we make, we can either talk about we used to have a fishery or we can say we used to have a problem with our fishery, but now we're -- we've started to turn it around. So that "used to have" kind of stuck with me. So I just say whatever we act on, let's keep that in mind.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I would agree, Commissioner Bell. That statement got my attention as well.

Okay. We -- Vice-Chairman, no?

So with that in mind, I will accept a motion from a Commissioner.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Commissioner Scott, I will so move to accept our staff's proposal.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell second.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I have a motion and a second to accept the proposal for the closing of the CAM reefs and then the two reefs that are the restoration projects as presented.

MR. RIECHERS: It's three, Chairman, but it's for clarification --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: For restoration?

MR. RIECHERS: The restoration, yes. There's three.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: The reef, restoration reefs, and then the Carlos, Ayres, Mesquite. Okay, I have a motion and a second. Any discussion? All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you. Thank everyone. These things are laborious. They take a long time. It's a lot of work, but there's a lot of people that really, really care about this on both sides and the effort that is put into this and the discussion is very positive and it's all done right here and it happens at this Agency and right here at this dais and I want to thank everyone for all the work.

We're going to move on to Action Item No. 5, Acquisition of Land, El Paso County, Approximately 1,100 Acres at Franklin Mountains State Park. Mr. Jason Estrella, welcome.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you. Good afternoon, y'all. This is an acquisition of approximately 1,100 acres at Franklin Mountains State Park located in far El Paso County. The park is approximately 26,000 acres within the city limits of El Paso, make it one of the largest urban parks in the nation. The park hosts a variety of recreational opportunities and a very robust and diverse ecosystem.

Parks and Wildlife Department and the City of El Paso have a long history of working together. The City approached TPWD staff to propose the acquisition of an approximately 1,100-acre tract adjacent to and along the east side of the park, with the City holding a conservation easement on the property. Acquisition of the tract would provide additional recreational opportunities to the park and the citizens of Far West Texas. You see it here on the east side.

As of today, we have received nine responses all in support. So staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 1,100 acres of land for addition to Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso County. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Jason, thank you.

I have a recommendation of the acquisition of land, El Paso County. Do I have a motion and a second from a Commissioner?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell so moved.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Rowling the second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none, action carries -- item carries.

Action Item No. 6, Acquisition of Land, Mason County, Approximately 200 Acres at the Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Jason.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you. For the record, my name is Jason Estrella with the Land Conservation Program. This is an acquisition of 200 acres at Mason Mountain, located in Mason County in the heart of Texas. Approximately 10 miles north of Mason.

TPWD acquired the WMA in 1997, where it was previously a working exotic game ranch with over 15 species of exotic deer and antelope. Today, six species remain, providing opportunities to study the affects of African ungulates on local habitat and interactions between native and exotic wildlife. Staff has identified and requested the addition of a 200-acre subject tract adjacent to the WMA from a willing seller. Addition of this tract will provide additional research and public hunting opportunities. The tract is along the south side.

Today, as of today, we have received ten responses, all in support. And so staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 200 acres of lands for addition to Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Mason County. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Jason, thank you.

On Action Item No. 6, we have a recommendation for acquisition of land, Mason County. I need a motion and a second.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Scott so moved.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Galo second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none, motion carried.

Action Item No. 7, Acquisition of Land, Brown County, Approximately 2,200 Acres Near Leona Muse Wildlife Management Area. Jason.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you. For the record, my name is Jason Estrella with the Land Conservation Program and this is acquisition of 2,200 acres. Near the Muse in Brown County, approximately 15 miles northeast of Brownwood.

The WMA was established '06 and currently consists of approximately 1,972 acres dedicated to habitat development. Near by the historic Colonel Burns Ranch near the WMA has been owned and operated by the same family for almost 150 years. The ranch is a 2012 Land Steward Award winner and the Burns family has worked with TPWD to expand research and outreach efforts. Recently the family have become willing sellers of approximately 2,200 acres of the ranch to the Department, while retaining ownership of approximately 124 acres.

Acquisition of the subject tract would create a new WMA, which will function administratively as a new unit of the Muse. This tract will provide additional research and recreational opportunities to the Cross Timbers and Prairie Ecosystem Project. The tract is located just northwest of the Muse. The yellow is what the family intends to retain.

As of today, we have received eight responses, all in support. Staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 2,200 acres of land for addition to the Cross Timbers and Prairies Ecosystem Project area in Brown County. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jason.

Commissioners, Action Item No. 7, acquisition of land, Brown County, any discussion? If not, a motion and a second.



COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell second.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Bell second. No one is registered to speak on this matter. Therefore, all the Commissioners in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none, Action Item No. 7 passes.

Commissioners, because of the length of the meeting, briefing on Action Item No. 8, Resource Inspections at Point of Entries and Briefing Item No. 9, New State Park Natural Areas, I pulled from today's agenda just because of the sheer length of time of the meeting and we'll get that -- January?

MR. SMITH: Yes, Mr. Chairman. Yeah, in January. We've advised the team of that, and so they'll be prepared to come back then.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: January we'll hear that, just in the essence of time. So I think that wraps up everything. I want to thank everybody for what they've done. Thank everybody for coming here and the effort that's gone before it. And most of all, I want to thank our friend Carter Smith for 15 incredible years. Thank you, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its business. I declare us adjourned at 3:50 p.m.

(Commission 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 ______________, ________.


Arch "Beaver" Aplin, III, Chairman


Dick Scott, Vice-Chairman


James E. Abell, Member


Oliver J. Bell, Member


Paul Foster, Member


Anna B. Galo, Member


Jeffery D. Hildebrand, Member


Robert L. "Bobby" Patton, Jr., Member


Travis B. Rowling, Member



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 Turn in date _____ day of ________________, ________.


Paige S. Watts, CSR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: January 31, 2023

TPW Commission Meetings