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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2018-04-17                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than a month old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
April 17, 2018
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to Hold Regional Public Hearings in Panhandle May 22-24
AUSTIN - The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission is extending an invitation to the public to attend upcoming regional public hearings in the Panhandle May 22-24. The Commission is holding these meetings in Amarillo and Lubbock to receive input from stakeholders and constituents concerning any issues relating to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department policies, goals, programs, and responsibilities.
Regional public hearings will be held in Amarillo, Tuesday, May 22, at 3 p.m. in the Amarillo Civic Center Heritage Room, 401 South Buchanan St., and Wednesday, May 23, at 2 p.m. in the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Banquet Room, 1501 Mac Davis Lane. Each speaker is given two (2) minutes to address the Commission on TPWD-related issues.
The Commission's regular May public hearing will be held Thursday, May 24, at 9 a.m. in the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Banquet Room. A complete agenda for the meeting, along with options for providing public comment and listening in via live streaming audio, will be posted online at https://tpwd.texas.gov/business/feedback/meetings/.
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[ Note: This item is more than a month old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
April 17, 2018
Texas Game Wardens Crack Down on Illegal Fish Trade in Houston Markets, Restaurants
AUSTIN -- State game wardens issued more than 150 citations to 19 fish markets and restaurants in the Houston area that illegally purchased game fish from undercover officers during a recently completed sting conducted by the Special Operations unit of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Law Enforcement Division.
During the two-year operation, wardens in plain clothes offered to sell more than a dozen different Texas saltwater species including spotted sea trout, red drum (redfish), red snapper, southern flounder, black drum, catfish and croaker to seafood markets and restaurants along the upper Texas coast.
Of concern is the heightening demand for these aquatic resources, particularly highly-regulated red snapper, which led to this enhanced law enforcement intervention. Commercial harvest of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico is strictly managed and monitored to ensure the long-term health of the fishery. Catches are tracked against an annual poundage quota limit, and red snapper sold into the market outside the legal system pose threats to the resource, as well as the commercial fishing industry that depends on it.
Evidence that some businesses are willing to work outside the law to obtain product, nearly half of the 40-plus businesses approached during the operation agreed to illegally purchase game fish. A similar undercover operation conducted by Texas game wardens between 2010-12 resulted in illegal purchases by only nine of 42 businesses targeted.
"Our objective with this operation was to identify and through law enforcement intervention disrupt the influx of illegal fish trade," said Maj. Chris Davis, who heads TPWD's law enforcement special operations. "About half of those we approached said no, so that was encouraging. But, many businesses were eager to buy aquatic products illegally, and wanted to place orders for more."
Davis said wardens received tips from various sources identifying businesses known to purchase fish under the table, and began approaching those businesses using aquatic product seized from other cases. The risks extend well beyond conservation of the resource.
"Not knowing where the fish came from, how they were handled, poses potential health risks for the buyer and the end user," stressed Col. Grahame Jones, TPWD Law Enforcement Division director. "Without documentation of when that fish was caught, there are no guarantees, and that gives those who participate legally in the industry a bad rap."
The 150 Class C misdemeanor citations related to the investigation thus far included an array of violations, including unlawful purchase of aquatic products by a restaurant, operating without a wholesale fish dealer's license and related commercial fishing-related issues. Additional cases are anticipated.
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[ Note: This item is more than a month old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
April 17, 2018
TPWD Projects 82-Day Red Snapper Season for Private Recreational Anglers in Federal Waters
AUSTIN- Private recreational anglers fishing in federal waters off the Texas coast will see a projected 82-day season starting June 1 under an agreement between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). This is an increase of 40 days from last year's red snapper season.
The agreement is a modified version of the Red Snapper Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) application submitted to NMFS earlier this year, and will allow TPWD to establish the opening and closing of the red snapper fishery in federal waters off the Texas coast for private recreational anglers fishing from their own vessels in 2018 and 2019.
Based on current harvest quota estimates, TPWD projects an 82-day red snapper season in federal waters, while state waters (out to 9 nautical miles) are expected to remain open year-round. Bag and size limits will remain unchanged under the permit; 2 fish per person daily with a 16-inch minimum size limit in federal waters, and 4 fish per person daily with a 15-inch minimum in state waters.
The federally permitted for-hire sector, which allows recreational anglers to fish from charter boats or headboats, will remain in its current management structure set by the federal government. NMFS will announce the opening and closing dates of the for-hire sector.
In September 2017, NMFS invited each of the Gulf States to apply for an EFP that, if approved, would authorize the states to manage recreational red snapper harvest in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Texas submitted its application for an EFP in February 2018 and subsequently held three public meetings along the coast and set up a web portal online for official public comment. The public overwhelmingly supported the original EFP application and the combination of the private recreational angler sector with the for-hire sector. Under this scenario, anglers were projected to receive up to 104 fishing days in federal waters.
While NMFS accepted the EFP allowing TPWD to manage the red snapper fishery, it rejected the application's plan to combine all recreational anglers into one user group. "While we respectfully disagree with that decision, we are confident that Texas can successfully manage the red snapper fishery to the benefit of anglers and the resource. As such, this is a positive step forward in our larger discussions with NMFS and the Gulf States about state-based management of the red snapper fishery," said Carter Smith, Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
"Historically, charter boats have been included by NMFS in its allocation for recreational anglers. As a result, I believe it was unreasonable for NMFS to refuse to include the for-hire sector under the Exempted Fishing Permit offered to Texas," said Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman Ralph H. Duggins. "I have advised senior representatives at NMFS that I will vigorously oppose any future efforts to privatize the charter sector through the use of individual fishing quotas. To do so would undermine the fundamental linchpin of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation - that fish and wildlife are public resources."
When managed as a separate group, the allotted poundage for private recreational anglers corresponds with a projected 82-day red snapper fishing season in Texas. Once Texas' allotted poundage is reached, the season will be closed. The red snapper season can also be closed in Texas if the Gulf-wide Total Allowable Catch is exceeded. TPWD believes if a state significantly exceeds their annual allocation not only should their waters be immediately closed to red snapper fishing but the following year's state allocation should be reduced by the amount it was exceeded during the previous fishing season. This will motivate each state to manage the red snapper fishery off their coast responsibly and to stay within its allocation.
Help TPWD better manage this resource by downloading the iSnapper app on your smart phone and reporting your red snapper landings.
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