Advocacy and Education – Key Components to Conservation

John Blaha
Advocacy and Education – Key Components to Conservation
John Blaha and Shane Bonnot recording podcast, interviewing Guide Jay Watkins of Rockport. Photo by Lisa Laskowski.

CCA Texas New Advocacy Director's Position

The mission and object of Coastal Conservation Association states: The purpose of CCA is to advise and educate the public on conservation of marine resources. The objective of CCA is to conserve, promote, and enhance the present and future availability of those coastal resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public. Advocacy, education and membership have been the cornerstones of CCA's success since the day concerned fishermen first met to discuss the decline of redfish and speckled trout along the Texas coast. These early members and leaders educated themselves and other recreational fishermen in their quest to make sweeping changes to the laws governing these species and put in motion lasting changes to the benefit of the Texas coastal fisheries.

CCA Texas recently strengthened its advocacy and education efforts by hiring Shane Bonnot as the new CCA Texas Advocacy Director. Shane comes to CCA Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) where he served as Hatchery Manager at Sea Center Texas. Shane is a graduate of Texas A&M and has spent over 16 years working in both the aquaculture and fisheries arena in Virginia and the last 10 years in Texas.

"We are extremely excited to have Shane join our CCA team and he brings a tremendous amount of experience and expertise to the organization," commented Robby Byers, CCA Texas Executive Director. Byers continued, "Creating this new advocacy position will further strengthen the efforts of CCA Texas and bring a sharper focus to fishery and coastal resource issues that concern CCA Texas members and recreational fishermen up and down the Texas coast."

Shane hit the ground running in September and his presence was felt almost immediately. Shane has been attending fisheries management meetings, taken the lead role in CCA Texas's push to encourage that the San Jacinto River Superfund Site is completely removed, is speaking to local chapters and is bringing new educational components to CCA Texas.

Beginning in the next issue of CCA Texas's Currents newsletter, Shane will have an Advocacy section dedicated to fisheries and resource issues that CCA Texas is working on. This column will provide an excellent source of information for CCA Texas members and will share with them important information that they can use to educate their peers and community leaders when needed.

An exciting and entertaining new outreach tool is the Coastal Advocacy Adventures blog and podcast. Shane will sit down with CCA staff, members of other conservation organizations, guides, government agency representatives, recreational fishermen, chefs, and many others to provide not only important conversation about fishery and resource issues, but also fun and entertaining information as it relates to the recreational fishing community. The podcasts will be produced on a weekly to bi-weekly basis and will be available by searching Coastal Advocacy Adventures on your podcast player.

These podcasts will be featured in the CCA Texas blog,, as well as other information for CCA Texas members and others. In an additional effort to educate our CCA Texas members, Shane will be attending CCA Texas chapter general membership meetings and speaking to local chapters, educating them on the current issues and what the local members can do to make a difference.

The success of CCA Texas is a direct result of the efforts of CCA Texas volunteers, supporters and members. Your actions and efforts are important in ensuring that Texas's coastal resources are protected and enhanced for present and future generations. In the future, CCA Texas will use the Voter Voice tool more extensively through "Take Action" alerts. This is an important opportunity to send your input into governmental agencies and committees making decisions on important issues. Suggested language is attached to the alerts or you can modify and create your own. It is your opportunity to be a part of the process and it only takes a few moments of your time. Help CCA Texas make a difference!

CCA Texas Continues Support of TPWD Internship Program

CCA Texas has a long history of supporting education in the marine science field through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) summer intern program and in recent years has also began supporting the TPWD Law Enforcement internships as well. 2016 marked the sixteenth year that CCA Texas has supported the TPWD Coastal Fisheries internship program, funding thirteen positions. At the last Executive Board meeting in November 2016, CCA Texas approved $97,500 to fund 15 intern positions within TPWD's Coastal Fisheries Division for 2017. These positions include eight fisheries management bay team positions along the Texas coast, three ecosystem resource positions, one genetic research team position, one artificial reef program position, and one each hatchery technician positions at Sea Center Texas and CCA Marine Development Center. These intern positions provide valuable hands on training for students and an excellent opportunity for TPWD personnel to evaluate potential future employees.

"This entire internship allowed me to apply the knowledge and skills I learned in school and I was able to hone those abilities in a way that will be useful to my future career," commented 2016 Intern Courtney Wallis. Courtney commented further, "I appreciate CCA's sponsorship more than I can articulate. I was feeling discouraged about my future plans before this summer began, but now I have a much more distinct path of where I am headed; all thanks to Coastal Conservation Association Texas."

CCA Texas and TPWD continue to grow their partnership and together make a difference in the management of Texas's coastal fisheries and resources. This partnership extends to other like organizations, academics and governmental agencies through programs such as the TPWD Internship program. Many of these students have gone on to secure jobs with TPWD and marine science positions with other organizations at many different levels. These internships and the CCA Texas graduate program scholarships at Texas A&M and University of Texas are providing much needed assistance to the future marine biologists and scientists in Texas. CCA Texas is committed to continuing its support of these programs and looks forward to the success of these students.

Advocacy and education are important parts of the CCA model and CCA Texas looks forward to growing these components in 2017 and to build upon the success of years past.