In The News

In the effort to keep readers abreast of developments that could significantly impact recreational fisheries, we have two very important fisheries-related articles included in this month’s magazine.

First is the proposed deepening of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel to accommodate larger vessels carrying crude oil to the refineries. A detailed explanation and CCA Texas’ opposition to the proposed deepening can be found in Conservation News on page 50.

While it could be argued that all Texas citizens are direct beneficiaries of our state’s energy industries, there is great concern arising whether the continued development and growth of these industries is being engineered with the continued health and productivity of our estuaries at the fore.

In simplest terms, a wider and deeper ship channel will allow greater flow of water from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Corpus Christi Bay and the neighboring Aransas Bay Complex. Corpus Christi Bay is already regarded as “borderline” in its ability to sustain certain forms of sea life – especially oysters. There is also great concern for a variety of finfish species that depend on estuarine habitat during parts of their life cycle. Sea grasses within these bays could also be negatively impacted. Disposal and containment of dredge spoils, increased turbidity, and elevated salinity levels are known to be detrimental to sea grass.

Expansion of the area’s refinery industry will be good for Texas, in general, but deepening the Corpus Christi Ship Channel is not the only way to support it. An offshore terminal for transferring crude oil to smaller vessels that can navigate the existing channel certainly seems less threatening to the estuarine ecology of the region.

Also in this issue is an op-ed on page 60 from Dr. Larry McKinney of Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, on the subject of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council’s recently announced intention to roll back the clock on by-catch reduction devices (BRDs) within the gulf shrimping industry.

By definition, BRDs are intended to reduce the capture of non-target sea life in shrimp nets. It’s called “net cull” and consists of a wide range of sea life other than the shrimp being targeted. At times the “cull” can easily exceed the “catch.”

The origin of the current BRD requirement came about as the Council sought options in the recovery of the then seriously-depleted red snapper fishery. In addition to overfishing by commercial and recreational fishermen, net cull was identified as a major source of red snapper mortality – juvenile snappers could not evade the net. Hence the enactment of BRD requirements to provide a means of escape and near-certain death.

Texas recreational red snapper anglers have always taken it on the chin. Ridiculously short seasons and two-fish bag limits come to mind. So, what’s the Gulf Council saying here? If the fishery is sufficiently recovered to roll back the BRD requirement, why are Texas anglers still being given such a small allocation of the fishery and a two-fish bag limit?