Conservation in Action: Hatcheries and Habitat

John Blaha
Conservation in Action: Hatcheries and Habitat
Photo by John Blaha.

CCA Texas Funds $152,000 to TPWD Hatchery Program

Through an electronic vote, CCA Texas’ Board of Directors recently approved $152,000 to aid the Sea Center Texas Hatchery in Lake Jackson, Texas and the CCA Marine Development Center (CCA MDC) in Flour Bluff, Texas to ramp up their production of juvenile speckled trout and redfish. With these funds, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologists at Sea Center Texas will be able to purchase and install liner replacements for three rearing ponds, allowing them to immediately increase fingerling production as some of the ponds were entirely out of commission and the remainder required frequent repair. Additionally, CCA Texas funding will allow replacement of four vital heat exchangers for the speckled trout brood tank systems at the CCA MDC to ensure proper temperature control and allow staff to increase the spawning period and maximize egg production of speckled trout broodstock.

“It was a moment for immediate action to ensure a speedy recovery of all Texas bays and estuaries that were negatively impacted by the coastal freeze,” said Mark Ray, Chairman of CCA Texas. “I am proud that CCA Texas was able to step up quickly in this time of need for our critically important hatchery system, and we will continue to work with TPWD leadership as this effort continues.”

According to TPWD, a severe winter storm in February 2021 led to fish kills along the Texas Coast, with speckled trout being identified as a significant portion of recreationally important species impacted. With the full scope of this fish kill still undetermined, CCA Texas is putting funding into action to ensure a thorough recovery in all impacted areas.

“To help Texas’ speckled trout populations recover from the impacts of the fish kill, it is imperative that hatchery production of fingerlings is maximized,” said Robby Byers, executive director of CCA Texas. “Funding these projects will definitely help in the near term, but will also continue to produce long after the freeze damage has recovered.”

TPWD operates two fish hatcheries – Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson and the CCA MDC in Flour Bluff. Each year, with the help from grow out ponds at the Perry R. Bass Marine Research Facility in Palacios, these facilities release approximately 15 million redfish and 10 million speckled trout fingerlings into Texas bay systems.

“Speckled trout and redfish fingerling production is a delicate effort that requires knowledge, precision and the correct equipment,” said Shane Bonnot, CCA Texas Advocacy Director. “We are fortunate to have gifted biologists and operators at Texas’ hatcheries and research facilities, and I am excited that CCA Texas is helping fund and increase those efforts again.”

Next Phase of Sabine HI20 Nearshore Reefing Site Underway

HI20 Nearshore Reef is a 160 acre site already home to a 120-foot sunken barge and hundreds of granite blocks.  It is set to be expanded with hundreds of tons of additional diverse materials, including reef pyramids, steel energy industry structures, low-level relief and concrete culverts. The HI20 reef site, 9 miles off Sabine Pass, is rapidly becoming one of the largest artificial reef projects on the upper Texas coast. Thanks to an impressive list of leading corporations, a massive array of materials is set to be deployed this week. Industry partners Sempra LNG, Chenier Energy, Golden Pass LNG, Motiva, Phillips 66, Shell Oil Company, Friends of Sabine Reef, Forterra Pipe and Precast, Bo-Mac Contractors, Eldridge Construction, and The CCA Music City Chapter, have partnered with Coastal Conservation Association Texas, Building Conservation Trust, and Texas Parks & Wildlife to make this major deployment possible.

“Massive nearshore habitat initiatives like HI20 show the scope of what can happen when grassroots anglers and conservationists come together in partnership with corporations, local and state government, NGOs and other community leaders to make a real and lasting difference in our coastal waters,” said Mic Cowart, Sabine Pass Port Authority Manager. “I am proud to be a part of a project that creates marine habitat that will provide for angling opportunities for present and future generations of Texans. With the vast forest of energy structures that has dotted the Gulf of Mexico for decades slowly disappearing due to federal government regulations, artificial reefing initiatives take on an added importance. The Sabine area has lost more offshore marine habitat than any other along the Texas coast, making grassroots efforts such as the HI20 Reef even more vital for strong and dynamic marine resources. We cannot thank our local industry partners enough, for helping financially and providing ocean-going tugs and barges as well.”

“This project really has captured the excitement and imagination of the local community and beyond. It has been inspiring to be a part of the vital work being done through this unique partnership,” said Rocky Chase, chairman of CCA Texas’ Government Affairs Committee. “HI20 will undoubtedly have considerable benefits not just for the marine ecosystem and the anglers who enjoy it, but for the local economy as well.”

“The infusion of that much material is going to create an unparalleled reef ecosystem in an area that was largely devoid of any habitat just a few years ago,” said John Blaha, CCA Texas Habitat Program Director. “We are proud to be part of the incredible partnership that has come together to enhance our marine resources and provide a world-class destination for anglers,” said Will Ohmstede, past Chairman of CCA Texas.

CCA Texas Continues Commitment to TPWD Hatcheries