CCA Texas Funds Port Mansfield Channel Study

CCA Texas
CCA Texas Funds Port Mansfield Channel Study
CCA Texas Executive Board recently approved $32,000 in funding for a study on the Port Mansfield Channel and its impacts to recreational fisheries in the Laguna Madre, Texas. This study will be conducted by Dr. Greg Stunz, Ph.D. with Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi.

The Port Mansfield Channel has historically provided water exchange between the Gulf of Mexico and the lower Laguna Madre; however, there has been much concern recently over the rapid closure of this inlet due to sedimentation. This potential closure has many recreational anglers concerned and how it would impact the species that use it for access to nursery habitats. Dr. Stunz's study will provide much-needed information about many aspects of this region including fisheries abundance, migration, and nursery habitat use in the Port Mansfield Channel area of the Laguna Madre.

Larval transport from offshore spawning grounds to estuarine nursery habitats for important species in the Gulf of Mexico (red drum, southern flounder, blue crabs, shrimp, etc.) is dependant on flow and circulation through tidal inlets and a reduction in the flow and/or closure of Port Mansfield Channel may lead to lower larval supply and ultimately a decrease in fisheries productivity in the lower Laguna Madre. This study will shed light on the effects of reduced flow and/or a closure of this inlet. In addition to the habitat and flow studies, geographic characteristics of spotted seatrout will be studied in the lower Laguna Madre area using otolith and genetic-based techniques to examine if the closure of the Port Mansfield Channel will affect migration patterns of spotted seatrout.

Dr. Stunz's study focuses on three objectives:
1. Assess the impact of closing Port Mansfield Channel on sport fish populations in the lower Laguna Madre.
2. Examine impact of Port Mansfield Channel on nursery recruitment potential for sportfishes using nearby habitats in the lower Laguna Madre.
3. Examine migration patterns of spotted seatrout through Port Mansfield using otolith microchemistry and genetic analyses.

This study will take approximately two years to complete. The first year will be spent collecting data and the second will be spent putting this important information together and writing the scientific analysis that will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Recreational fisheries represent a $1.3 billion/year industry to Texas. The recreational industry is important to coastal communities up and down the Texas coast and especially to the Port Mansfield area. Where fisheries data is lacking, it is important to pursue the research necessary in helping fisheries managers make the right decisions and provide the data to fight for the actions needed to maintain these sensitive ecosystems.