|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2006-04-17                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [AR]
April 17, 2006
TPWD Releases First Flounder Fingerlings
ROCKPORT, Texas -- When two years of careful work went down the drain April 4, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department coastal fisheries workers quietly cheered.
The drain was connected to a hose, and the hose led to Little Bay, a shallow estuary in the Rockport city limits. Through that hose, nearly 1,500 fingerling flounder swam to freedom.
"This is the first time we've gotten to this point," said Robert Vega, Ph.D., TPWD's enhancement director.
Southern flounder, and many other species of flatfish around the world, have proven difficult to spawn and raise in captivity.
Building on successes in Japan, North Carolina and elsewhere, G. Joan Holt, Ph.D., a University of Texas aquaculture researcher, and the TPWD hatchery team at the CCA/CPL Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi were able to successfully induce wild-caught flounder to spawn and then to raise the larvae through their metamorphosis into flatfish and to fingerlings as much as six inches long.
Fisheries biologists said 1,500 fish -- the majority of which will not survive to maturity -- is a drop in the bay's vast bucket, and is not the kind of large-scale enhancement effort that is likely to make any difference that anglers can see. Instead, they said, it was important to demonstrate that it could be done at all.
"We're very excited about the progress we've been able to achieve working in collaboration with Dr. Holt," said Vega. "I think that within a few years, if our coastal managers decide we need to develop a large-scale flounder program, we should be able to achieve that objective."
"It was a really neat trial run with not very many animals," said Holt, who is widely acknowledged as a leading expert on aquaculture. "Next year we have a lot of plans about how we're going to work on it."
Holt said that scientists are continuing to learn about how to handle flounder.
Aquaculturists can induce many fish to begin spawning by manipulating environmental factors such as water temperature and the duration of "daylight" the fish are exposed to. Some species, such as red drum, respond readily to well-understood environmental cues and can be made to spawn almost on command.
Flounder, though, are a little tougher. For instance, after inducing the big females to begin spawning in December, Holt and her researchers "turned-off" the fish -- stopped the spawning process -- since the Port Aransas laboratory would be emptied of staff over the holidays. Problem was, they couldn't turn them back on when they got back.
"I think we're continuing to learn a lot about how to spawn them. We're continuing to do the temperature tolerances so we can figure out when to put them into the ponds," said Holt. "We're also looking at pigmentation problems. Everyone who works with flounder around the world has problems with pigmentation."
Flounder typically exhibit a light-colored "bottom," or right side, and a darker top, or left, side, which more closely matches the sandy or muddy bay bottoms they prefer. In some hatchery fish -- including fingerlings released this month -- the dark pigmentation on top is not complete.
Holt said that there is some concern that fish that exhibit light coloration on the "wrong" side are more vulnerable to predators. Elsewhere, where flounder also are an important commercial species, unusually pigmented individuals could be perceived as less palatable by consumers.
Holt said she and TPWD hatchery staff hoped to address pigmentation problems by varying the diet of the larval fish.
Many anglers have expressed concern about the state of flounder stocks in Texas -- the species is fished commercially and recreationally here -- but Mark Fisher, Ph.D., TPWD coastal fisheries science director, said flounder are doing better, especially since the late 1990s.
According to Fisher, shrimp bycatch -- the inadvertent capture and killing of juvenile flounder -- has the biggest impact on the fish's success in Texas waters.
"Shrimping effort is declining, and we are seeing the flounder respond," Fisher said. "We're seeing an increase in the adults as well as an increase in the size of the age zero and age one fish."
Fisher said the relative abundance of adult flounder in the state hit rock bottom in 1995, several years after the peak of shrimping activity here. Since then, by buying-back shrimping licenses and limiting new entries into the fishery, TPWD has helped reduce shrimping pressure on the coast. That, in turn said Fisher, has benefit flounder.
According to TPWD Coastal Fisheries Director Larry McKinney, Ph.D., flounder stocks in Texas waters appear to be on the rebound and that is good news coastal anglers and seafood lovers alike.
"It has taken the combined effects of regulation and license buyback to get us to this point in recovering flounder stocks," said McKinney, "but that is not good enough, and we are looking at a range of strategies, including hatcheries, to move us further and faster to where we do want to be."

[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
April 17, 2006
Wildscapes Workshop Offered for San Antonio Homeowners
SAN ANTONIO -- An April 22 workshop here will arm homeowners with knowledge and resources to help solve a growing wildlife problem--how human development often removes wildlife habitat, causing a loss of native plants that provide numerous benefits for people and the natural environment.
"Homeowners are often left with very little on their homestead other than their home-if they are lucky maybe a tree, a few shrubs (often not even native to the area) and some turfgrass," said Judit Green, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department urban wildlife biologist in San Antonio.
Green said landowners can make a positive difference in several ways. First, they can work with developers and builders from the beginning and insist on saving valuable plants, trees and shrubs on their new property. "Put it in the contract and place a value on the plants in case they are damaged during development," Green suggested. She suggests using a local plant field guide to learn what beauty and wildlife value they might offer in the coming years before selectively removing any.
Homeowners who have purchased a house well after development has taken place can select regionally appropriate native Texas plants at local plant nurseries and create a garden that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also uses less water and is better for local wildlife.
"Focus on plants that offer some type of food, such as a berry, seed, acorn or nectar that will provide for birds, butterflies, mammals and other wildlife," Green said. "Once many of these plants mature, they may also offer nesting and shelter opportunities for wildlife too."
The TPWD Urban Wildlife Office in San Antonio offers various workshops throughout the year for homeowners and landowners to learn how to manage their property for wildlife, be it small or large.
The next workshop, focusing on the Texas Wildscapes native plant landscaping for wildlife program, will be held from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. April 22 at the Palo Alto College Performing Arts Building auditorium. The workshop will cover ways to use drought-tolerant native plants that attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife to the backyard.
The cost of the workshop is $20 per person, or $35 for two people, which includes lunch. Walk-ins are welcome, but pre-registration is required to be eligible for door prizes. Call (210) 688-6444 to pre-register or to get more information or see the TPWD Web site for a complete schedule of landowner workshops and field days across Texas.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
[ Additional Contacts: Mark Hendricks, Texas State University, (512) 245-2180, mh06@txstate.edu ]
April 17, 2006
Texas Rivers Center Progress Hailed in San Marcos
SAN MARCOS, Texas -- Texas State University and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are inviting partners and news media to attend an April 26 grand reopening event to mark completion of $3.1 million in renovations to create a major educational and research facility devoted to Texas springs and aquifers and the river watersheds that feed them, as well as the lakes, bays and estuaries into which they flow.
A master plan was created in 1999 for the Texas Rivers Center, located on the grounds of the Aquarena Center on the Texas State campus. Project design began in 2000. Renovation work began in 2003 and was recently completed.
"This unprecedented partnership between the university and the department has resulted in a kind of rivers incubator, with scholars, researchers and biologists from Texas Parks and Wildlife, the National Park Service and the university all working together in the same building," said Texas State University President Denise M. Trauth. "The partnership is evolving toward permanent protection for one of the largest springs in the United States and a state-of-the-art environmental education program for rivers and springs."
One tangible result of the project is that Texas State is depositing 33,108 acre feet of San Marcos River headwaters water rights the university owns into the Texas Water Trust in perpetuity. A draft water rights permit to place the water into the trust has been prepared by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, with a final permit expected soon.
The Texas Water Trust was created by the Texas Legislature in 1997 as a way for water rights holders to voluntarily protect instream flows, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat or bay and estuary inflows.
"Making sure we have enough clean water for people and wildlife is the most important issue facing Texas over the long-term," said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director. "The Texas Rivers Center not only protects one of the most environmentally sensitive and important cultural resource sites in Texas, it provides a platform for public education and professional collaboration to promote conservation of our most important resource-water."
The Texas Rivers Center at San Marcos Springs will serve as a research center and help educate the public about aquatic ecology and the important role that water plays in everyone's daily lives, including the need to protect and conserve Texas water resources.
The former inn on the Aquarena property has been renovated and now provides space for exhibits on water resources and offices for the River Systems Institute, National Park Service, and TPWD Freshwater Resources Program. The site also includes interpretive venues with aquaria, glass bottom boats and a floating wetlands boardwalk. Future work includes continued restoration of the old theme park to a more natural state, plus development of additional water resource exhibits and interpretive space and water-related research space.
San Marcos Springs on the property is the second-largest spring system in Texas, producing an average of 150 million gallons of water daily.
Texas State University purchased the Aquarena Springs resort theme park in 1994. Shortly thereafter, the university began conversion of the property from entertainment to educational use. Activities begin on April 26 at 10 a.m. with glass bottom boat rides, followed by remarks by officials at 11 a.m. For more information, contact the Rivers System Institute at (512) 245-9200.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
April 17, 2006
April 15 Brings Outdoor Grants for 8 Texas Groups
AUSTIN, Texas -- While many people were racing to meet the IRS tax deadline on April 15, eight Texas organizations who help kids learn more about conservation and outdoor recreation got some good news about grant awards.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Community Outdoor Outreach Program (COOP) awarded a total of $215,072 in grants to groups in Brownsville, Dallas, Goliad, Houston (two grants), Laredo, Lubbock and Sinton.
"With many organizations seeing a decline in funding and donations, this news is welcome for these organizations trying to find a way to make sure future Texans not only enjoy the outdoors, but learn to protect it and respect it," said Darlene Lewis, COOP program director. "For many of the participants targeted in this program, this will be the first time they have experienced the outdoors Texas Parks and Wildlife style."
Funding for COOP grants comes from state sporting tax dollars. Available grant funding was reduced last legislative session from $800,000 to $470,000 per year.
Here is the list of grants awarded this funding cycle:
(Brownsville) -- Texas Southmost College Foundation --Students from rural communities will be exposed to outdoor recreation and environmental programs in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. ($30,000)
(Dallas) --Turning P.O.I.N.T. (Paraplegics on Independent Nature Trips) -- This program will allow children and adults with disabilities, including the newly injured, to see demonstrations and experience outdoor recreational activities first-hand. ($29,000)
(Goliad) -- Goliad Heritage Council -- 12 one-day Wild About Our River workshops will teach river preservation, conservation and etiquette principles to help encourage responsible use and care of the river basin. ($22,436)
(Houston) -- City of Houston Parks and Recreation Dept. -- Houston PARKS Adventure is a new program designed to engage urban children, women and seniors in the great outdoors. They will enjoy hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing and camping. ($30,000)
(Houston) -- East Harris County Youth Program -- 800 "at-risk" and minority low-income students will visit state parks, environmental learning and nature centers this summer to learn more about conservation and environmental programs. ($30,000)
(Laredo) -- Webb County Police Activities League -- Visits to state parks and experiencing outdoor activities such as hunting, camping, fishing, outdoor cooking and birding will be among the activities experienced by the 320 participants in this program. ($30,000)
(Lubbock) -- Village of Buffalo Springs -- Buffalo Springs Lake will be used as an outdoor classroom for 5-8th graders in the rural school districts of Lubbock. Funding will be used for water testing kits, orienteering kits, animal track casting, fishing and Dutch ovens for cooking. ($24,732)
(Sinton) -- Rob & Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation -- Funds will be used to help provide quality conservation education to students and teachers. Activities include archery, kayaking, bird watching, fishing, wildlife habitat management and wetland ecology programs for more than 2,500 participants. ($18,904)
Because of the recent funding reductions, applications are now accepted for review only once per year. The next grant application deadline is Feb. 1, 2007. To find out more about COOP grants, contact TPWD by email at rec.grants@tpwd.texas.gov or by phone at (512) 912-7124, or see the department Web site.
On the Net: