Feedback sought on proposed invasive species regulations

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AUSTIN – Texas Parks and Wildlife will be hosting two scoping meetings in North Texas this month to get public feedback on a pair of proposed new regulations aimed at preventing the spread of exotic aquatic species in the state.

TPWD Inland Fisheries Division staff will be briefing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission at its Jan. 25 meeting on two proposed regulations to combat zebra mussels along with silver and bighead carp. As it stands, these species are present in Texas in limited numbers or are confined to a few locations.

The meetings have been set for 7 p.m. on Monday, January 16 in the auditorium at the Denison Senior Center (531 West Chestnut) and at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 17 in Jefferson at the Jefferson Visitor Center (305 E. Austin).

Zebra mussels are known to have caused alarming declines in populations of fish, birds and native mussel species and can damage boat hulls, plug water systems used in boat motors, air conditioners and heads. Millions of dollars are spent each year controlling, cleaning and monitoring zebra mussels in other states. The introduction of Asian carps, such as bighead and silver carp, have the potential to cause enormous damage to native species because these species feed on plankton required by larval fish and native mussels. They are a potential competitor with some native fishes such as gizzard and threadfin shad that also rely on plankton for food.

Although possession and transport of these species is already prohibited, TPWD biologists believe additional regulations are needed to prevent the accidental or incidental movement of these species from one waterbody to another.

The first proposed regulation would prohibit persons from leaving specified water bodies in the possession of live, nongame fish. This would prevent the accidental capture and movement of silver and bighead carp during bait-collecting activities for other nongame fish, especially gizzard or threadfin shad. These species can be easily misidentified at smaller sizes and within a large quantity of fish. Collection and use of nongame fishes for bait on those water bodies would still be legal.

The second proposal would impact water bodies where zebra mussels have been found or have a high potential of occurrence.

Zebra mussels have a free-swimming, microscopic larval stage called a veliger. Any water collected from water bodies where zebra mussels are present could contain veligers. To prevent the accidental transport of zebra mussel veligers to other water bodies, any person leaving the specified water bodies would be required to drain or empty all water from bait buckets, live wells, bilges, and any other water intake systems or containers before the use of a public roadway.

If a person follows these procedures, they would be deemed to be in compliance with the rules against possession of prohibited species that are not visible to the unaided eye. A person traveling on a public roadway via the most direct route to another access point located on the same body of water would not be required to drain or empty water. These procedures do not exempt persons from complying with prohibitions against transporting prohibited species that are visible such as adult zebra mussels or aquatic plants such as giant salvinia.

The water bodies where the prohibition against transport of live, non-game fishes would be in effect are: the Red River below Lake Texoma, Big Cypress Bayou downstream of Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on Lake O’ the Pines including the Texas waters of Caddo Lake, and the Sulphur River downstream of the Lake Wright Patman dam. The water bodies where restrictions on draining water would be in effect are: Lake Texoma, Red River above and below Lake Texoma, and Lake Lavon.

For additional information on the proposed regulations, please contact Ken Kurzawski at (512) 389-4591, e-mail: