TPWD Fisheries Biologist Honored

Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277,

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Brian Van Zee named 2015 SEAFWA Fisheries Biologist of the Year

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ATHENS—Brian Van Zee of Waco has been named fisheries biologist of the year by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA).

Van Zee is a fisheries biologist for the Inland Fisheries Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and is headquartered in Waco.

“It gives me great pleasure to present this year’s Fisheries Biologist of the Year Award to Brian Van Zee,” SEAFWA President Bob Ziehmer said. “His contributions to fisheries conservation that began in Texas have led to ripples across the country.”

Van Zee was instrumental in helping TPWD deal with one of the greatest threats Texas fisheries resources have faced, the introduction of invasive zebra mussels to Texas waters.

“Brian developed and fostered more than 40 key partnerships that helped our agency and constituents understand and address this very dynamic and complicated situation,” said TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith, who nominated Van Zee for the award.

Through new relationships with governmental agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations, private industry and the media, Van Zee fostered collaborative information gathering and sharing, training, statewide monitoring, education and awareness, and delivery of two innovative control efforts.

“Brian has been at the forefront of our efforts to contain the rapidly expanding population and to try and keep it from threatening other waters,” Smith said. “Simply put, he has quickly become one of the state’s foremost authorities on how best to contend with this threat to our waters, aquatic habitats, and boating and fishing traditions.”

Van Zee organized innovative treatments on a 30-mile stretch of river and a reservoir marina. He worked with others to develop, fund and execute a public awareness campaign. Because of his efforts, more than 200 people have been trained to inspect boats for the mussels, and boater inspection and statewide monitoring programs have been implemented.

To keep the public informed and engaged in fighting the invasion, he authored more than 50 press releases and gave hundreds of media interviews. Because of his program’s success, Van Zee has given multiple presentations and training courses to different organizations across the country that are also fighting invasive species.

Van Zee is also responsible for coordinating the Texas statewide fish-stocking plan as well as fisheries management and research operations in the central and western portions of Texas. He and his wife Jill have two children, Breeley and Raelynn.

“All of the achievements that were mentioned are the result of not just my efforts but rather those of many great people and team players,” Van Zee said. “I am very blessed to get to work for TPWD and all of the great staff that we have in the agency. That goes for our field staff as well as all of my supervisors and TPWD’s executive leadership, who trust us and support us in our work. I think the award really says volumes for who we are as an agency.

“I also want to recognize my wife and daughters for always supporting me in my work,” he added. “I am truly a lucky man to have such a loving family and I thank God for them and for the blessings that they are.”

The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) is an organization whose members are the state agencies with primary responsibility for management and protection of the fish and wildlife resources in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. Member states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

SEAFWA’s Biologist of the Year Awards are presented to two career biologists of state wildlife agencies, one each in the categories of wildlife and fisheries, who in the opinion of the SEAFWA Awards Committee have made outstanding contributions toward