2020 has been a challenging year to say the least. CCA Texas kicked off the year with seven banquets through the first of March, and the success of these events laid promise for another great year for CCA Texas. Then the world as we know it came to a stop. We received word on Friday, March 13, that the City of Corpus Christi was cancelling the Corpus Christi banquet on March 19. Since that time, every event through June has been rescheduled for the last third of the year. As we begin June and work towards July, staff and volunteers anxiously await for word from the Governor’s office, and what we will and will not be able to do. CCA Texas Executive Director, Robby Byers, recently provided the CCA Texas membership with the following update.
Staying in Touch with the CCA Family – Robby Byers
When we finished 2019 with record results in nearly all aspects of CCA Texas’ operations, I don’t think anyone could have imagined that a few months later we would be scrambling to move every spring and early summer event and banquet to the late summer and fall in response to a global pandemic. But even with all of the problems and distractions this crisis has caused, CCA Texas’ important work continues. As this crisis became clearer, we quickly reduced and cut expenses through our operations while working with local chapter leaders to find new dates for the more than 50 banquets. The main question that now faces us in this process is what size of events local and state authorities will allow. We continue to coordinate with the Governor’s office through our Austin lobbyists in determining when and to what degree group gatherings will be safe and viable. The safety and comfort of our members, volunteers, supporters and staff are of foremost importance, but we also are hearing regularly from our members and chapter leaders that CCA members are ready to get back to supporting the important work of CCA. We have all seen the incredible interest in coastal fishing that has picked up recently. After weeks of sheltering-in-place, the angling public was ready to go fish. The Texas STAR Tournament has kicked off with strong registrations and people are ready to get back to the coast. The work of conservation and habitat continues. We are working with our partners and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in ensuring that the critical conservation work of our State fisheries managers and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission continue to focus on some of the important fisheries and habitat issues we all face, including southern flounder management, oyster harvest controls and habitat restoration. Although many projects and initiatives are on hold through this crisis, this work will resume shortly and CCA Texas will be helping lead the conservation efforts that make this State’s fisheries and habitat so healthy and strong. Thank you to all CCA Texas members for everything you are doing to keep our mission moving forward.
Advocacy Update – Shane Bonnot
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission moved to adopt changes in southern flounder regulations, making slight modifications to the proposed rule change. Effective September 2020, the minimum size will be increased from 14 to 15 inches. The proposed 45 day fall closure to allow the spawning females to migrate to the Gulf was also approved but will not take effect until 2021, citing consideration of economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission also directed staff to: 1) move towards real-time reporting of commercial landings to ensure that all flounder landed under a commercial finfish license are reported to the department, and 2) further study a potential slot limit for the fishery to increase spawning biomass. In closing discussions, Vice-Chairman Arch H. "Beaver" Aplin of Lake Jackson provided supportive comments on the continued need to provide some relief to the fishery through the flounder stock enhancement program. Shane Bonnot, CCA Texas Advocacy Director, provided comments to the commission citing concerns for the continued declines and need for action to conserve southern flounder.
"CCA Texas appreciates the Commission taking action that considers what is best for the resource while remaining sensitive to the economic impacts that the current pandemic has had on recreational fishing guides, anglers and businesses supportive of the recreational fishing industry," stated Bonnot. "Over the past 15 years our membership has donated over $1 million to support larval research and flounder stock enhancement. We are committed to continuing efforts that will improve this fishery and provide opportunities for the recreational angler."
Based upon online public comment and verbal comment during the meeting, there was overwhelming support from both recreational and commercial fishers to support some form of regulation change that would increase the spawning stock biomass of southern flounder — roughly 1/3 of the comments provided online were in opposition of any regulation change.
"I love to fish for flounder and want them to rebound so that we have more for future generations," said Marisol De Le Garza, CCA Texas-Rio Grande Valley Board Member. "I want to do my part to conserve the fish and give the female flounder a chance to spawn."
"CCA Texas appreciates the efforts of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop and adopt these regulation changes," stated Rocky Chase, Chairman of the CCA Texas Government Affairs Committee. "Combining these efforts with additional management tools such as stock enhancement, angler engagement and fisheries research is a logical path forward as we continue to unpack the complexities within this struggling fishery."
Vice-Chairman Aplin’s pledge for the department to ramp up stocking efforts of southern flounder should come to fruition in late 2020. The CCA Texas flounder building at Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson is nearing completion and the sister building in Corpus Christi is already online. With the two new buildings, Texas Parks and Wildlife staff will be capable of expanding their flounder spawning and fingerling grow-out into warmer months, giving them two rounds of production.
“CCA Texas continues to be a proud partner of the stock enhancement program,” said Robby Byers, executive director of CCA Texas. “Our hope is that with increased production capabilities, stock enhancement can aid in the recovery of the flounder fishery. TPWD has repeatedly expressed grave concern for the status of flounder stocks and we want be a part of the solution by supporting the department and raising awareness among our membership.”
Over the past 15 years, CCA Texas has donated more than $1 million to support flounder research and stock enhancement projects:
- $740,000 to the University of Texas Marine Science Institute for facilities and equipment to support larvae research.
- $14,000 to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for a skiff to aid in flounder brood stock collection.
- $40,000 to the Sea Center Texas Hatchery in Lake Jackson for flounder larvae culture equipment.
- $325,000 to the Sea Center Texas Hatchery for a flounder culture larvae culture building.
CCA Texas staff, volunteer leadership, and our local chapters thank you all for your continued efforts as CCA Texas and our sister states push through these challenging times.