Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission enacts new southern flounder management regulations
Houston, TX At its March 26 meeting, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to enact a one-month, November closure to commercial and recreational gigging of southern flounder along the Texas coast and implement a November reduction in the hook-and-line bag limit to two fish. Additionally, the Commission enacted a year-round reduction in the recreational bag limit to five fish and the commercial bag limit to 30 fish in possession, with a minimum length of 14-inches for both.
"Chairman Holt and the Commission showed real leadership and vision in their conservation efforts," said Mark Ray, CCA Texas chairman. "These regulations will provide an important step in the recovery of this vital Texas fishery."
Late last year, Coastal Conservation Association Texas (CCA Texas) initiated a grassroots campaign calling for additional conservation measures to save declining southern flounder stocks. Thousands of CCA Texas members petitioned the TPW Commission to enact stronger regulatory measures to restore flounder stocks. CCA Texas called for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to close the flounder fishery to all gigging during the months of October, November and December and implement year-round reductions in the recreational and commercial bag limits. Additionally, CCA Texas fought successfully to allow continued hook-and-line fishing for flounder.
"The Commission did a great thing for marine conservation," said Robby Byers CCA Texas executive director. "We called for additional months of closure to gigging because we feel that is where the real problem lies. Additionally, it is important to note that recreational anglers greatly reduced their bag limit. I am pleased that the Commission took this important first step of closing November to gigging without locking out all hook-and-line angling."
According to Texas Park and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) analysis, southern flounder population numbers have shown a steady and dramatic decline for a quarter of a century. TPWD's seasonal coast-wide gill net catch rate has declined by more than 50 percent since 1982. Also, according to TPWD, most flounder gigged during the months of October through December are females. CCA Texas believes by allowing more flounder to escape and complete their spawning cycles, the better chance the species has to recover.
"A number of good conservation measures have been put in place in the past, but that has not been nearly enough to recover this stock," said Byers. "TPWD's analysis paints a grim picture of the current flounder stock and gigging clearly has the largest impact. This November closure will set the path for a real recovery."
For more information on TPWD's southern flounder status report, go to www.ccatexas.org.