Seagrass Conservation and LIFA

I have written before on the topic of user conflict on Texas bays. More specifically, a certain faction of shallow water anglers seeking to limit boater access in and around the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area.

For background, seagrass can be damaged by boat propellers during shallow water take-off and sometimes when the boat is running on plane in shallow water. Seagrass is important in the grand scheme of estuarine ecology. Biologists call it the foundation of the food chain and it deserves our best conservation efforts.

Also by way of background - Due to the amount of boat traffic and prop scarring on the flats between Aransas Pass, Port Aransas and Port Ingleside, the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area was established in 2001 with voluntary guidelines to protect seagrass. After five years of modest improvement, stricter measures in the form of "no uprooting" regulations were enacted. Boaters damaging seagrass could be fined. Boater compliance increased and scarring of the grassbeds diminished. The comparison of aerial photos before and after the 2006 regs went into effect shows marked recovery of the resource.

Up to this point I'm OK with seagrass protection. It makes too much sense to ignore and TPWD's approach thus far is acceptable in my view. Nobody tells me where I can or cannot run my boat just be kind to seagrass!

But here's where the rub comes in. Some shallow water anglers still aren't happy. Seagrass conservation isn't good enough, now they want LIFA (Low Impact Fishing Area), a watered-down handle for what Florida calls NMZ - No Motor Zone. An area where you can fish but you cannot run your outboard. I call it a private fishing area for anglers who wade, paddle kayaks, or pole small skiffs. A place where they will not have to put up with every Joe Angler who might also want to fish there but, wants to access and navigate the area under outboard power.

The fishing will be so much better they say–without all those roaring outboards–and there will be no damage to the seagrass. Ever so quick to slide in that threadbare skin of a conservation message.

Personally, I find the whole concept of LIFA to be flawed and it chaps me the way they wrap their true agenda in a veil of conservation ethic. I do not believe it is appropriate for a tiny slice of the angling community to dictate how a million or so other users should have to play the game when the million or so are funding the show.

The people seeking LIFA are wily, diligent, and well-connected. They may be small in number but have friends in high places. Joe Average Angler not so much.

If Joe feels the way I do, then Joe needs to speak up. Email TPWD and tell them you support seagrass conservation through boater and angler education not further regulation. And while you're at it, tell them LIFA might be OK for Florida but we'd rather not have it here in Texas.

Email to: [email protected]