As CCA Texas began 2021, it did so with much trepidation. Without a doubt 2020 proved to be a challenge that none of us had ever faced before, but a strong effort by CCA Texas volunteers, staff, and leadership, persevered and we ended the year in great shape. Local chapter leaders and committees were anxious and ready to go, some chapters pushed their events to earlier in the year, while larger events such as Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi pushed their events to mid-year. The recipe cooked up a lot of success, and records were set across the state. The volunteer efforts were phenomenal and the support in the local communities was as strong as it has ever been. CCA Texas staff and leadership tips its hat to the local chapter committees, banquet and event attendees, sponsors, and contributors, and most of all to those who continue to show their support and belief in this great organization. CCA Texas volunteers and members are second to none!
Habitat – Habitat efforts continue to move along. CCA Texas’s Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow (HTFT) continues to work with local and state partners to restore and create habitat all along the Texas Gulf Coast. Like everyday life, 2020 and the ongoing effects of the COVID pandemic continue to cause projects to suffer from delays for delivery of materials, permitting process delays, and simply catching up from 2020. CCA Texas, Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD), Friends of Sabine Reefs, and community supporters look forward to additional deployments of artificial reef pyramids and low-relief blocks in the Sabine HI20 and Galveston Big Man/Kate’s reef site to closeout 2021. Contractors are working quickly to manufacture, stockpile, and deploy these materials as soon as construction of the pyramids is complete and weather windows allow for deployments.
Oyster reefs continue to be a strong point of focus for CCA Texas in both terms of habitat work and advocacy. CCA Texas and other groups are laser-focused and making a difference in the oyster industry that will put the health of the local ecosystems first, above all else. The Aransas Bay Chapter, FlatsWorthy Inc, and CCA staff are working hard to keep the attention on the oyster fishery and what lies ahead for the Coastal Bend. CCA staff is working to educate local volunteers on the processes needed for change, and being involved by lending a voice of support to make the necessary changes. Building Conservation Trust (BCT), CCA’s National Habitat program, has worked with Texas Parks and Wildlife, Galveston Bay Foundation and others to expand existing oyster restoration efforts in Galveston Bay. CCA Texas and BCT are willing and ready to provide the necessary funds to help expand restoration efforts up and down the coast.
Advocacy - Oysters continue to stay at the fore of CCA Texas Advocacy efforts. The 2020/2021 season once again showed that changes to the management of public reefs must be continuously improved in the future to keep the resource sustainable. The public reefs of Galveston were closed early in the season and the highly-mobile commercial fleet descended upon the Coastal Bend. More than 100 boats worked the Aransas and Copano Bay systems daily. These smaller bay systems simply will not be able to continue to be sustainable with this type of continued pressure. CCA Texas, local recreational anglers, and resource managers are concerned about the continued assault on these reef systems and what the future may hold. TPWD Coastal Fisheries managers are looking closely at the current processes and matrices that manage these systems, and what can be done to ensure their health for the future.
TPWD recently posted requests seeking public input on a proposed amendment to temporarily prohibit oyster harvesting for two years from 199 acres of restored oyster reefs. The temporary closures will allow for the planting of oyster cultch to repopulate in those areas and provide enough time for those oysters to reach legal size before harvest. Oyster cultch is the material to which oyster spat (juvenile oysters) attach, creating an oyster reef.
Due to the decline of oyster reefs from overharvesting and other environmental reasons, the 85th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 51 in 2017. This bill included language that required certified oyster dealers return TPWD-approved cultch materials in an amount equal to 30% of the total volume of oysters purchased in the previous license year. A portion of ongoing restoration efforts are a direct result of that legislation. CCA Texas supports all efforts to protect these restored reefs.
This recent request for input from the community, is one of several ways that recreational fishermen can get involved. Another way is participating in and offering public comment at TPWD public meetings. TPWD Commissioners recently held their annual August meeting in Austin. The TPWD Commissioner’s meetings typically offer an opportunity of people to make statements to the Commission about their concerns and/or support of anything that has to do with TPWD. This is a great opportunity to make yourself heard to the body that directs the actions of TPWD. Shane Bonnot, CCA Texas Advocacy Director, and members of the Aransas Bay chapter attended the August meeting, and expressed their individual concerns regarding the management of the oyster fishery in Aransas and Copano Bays.
At the time of this writing, TPWD Commissioners will be meeting very soon for their final session of 2021. This opportunity is available to each of us to speak directly to the commissioners with our concerns. As recreational anglers, we are all afforded the opportunity to voice our concerns to the TPWD Commission. Now more than ever is your time to speak up when given the opportunity. Whether it’s for changes in the oyster industry, changes in the management of speckled trout or any other species, or time to simply voice a reasoned concern to help ensure a healthy ecosystem for the future…please attend the meeting and speak up!
2021 has been a very successful year for CCA Texas. This success would not have been possible without the efforts of state-wide volunteers, members, sponsors, and supporters. CCA Texas staff and leadership tips our hats to you once again. Thank you all, and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. We will see you in 2022!To learn more about CCA Texas and what is going on, please visit www.ccatexas.org. Be involved, make a difference, take what you need and release the rest.