Partnerships Make Habitat

John Blaha
Partnerships Make Habitat
HRI researchers.Photo by Lisa Laskowski.

CCA Texas, through its habitat initiative, Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow (HTFT), and Building Conservation Trust (BCT), CCA National’s habitat program, have been involved in thirty-seven habitat projects with a total contribution of $6,759,600 since November of 2009. CCA Texas Executive Board approved an initial funding of $500,000 at its November 2009 Executive Board meeting, and the program has grown quickly to where it is today. In 2018, the program funded over $950,000 to ten projects. CCA Texas’s partnerships with like organizations, state agencies, academic institutions and others is an important component to the efforts along the Texas gulf coast to create and restore critical habitat. CCA Texas and its partners continue to build relationships and look forward to many years of conservation work together.

Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program – The Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP) marks its 20th Year Anniversary in 2019. CBBEP is dedicated to protecting and restoring the health and productivity of the bays and estuaries in the Texas Coastal Bend, while supporting continued economic growth and public use of the bays. CBBEP works with local governments, conservation groups, teachers, students and the public to raise awareness of the natural surroundings through research, restoration and recreation projects, and environmental education. CBBEP strongly believes the health, beauty, and bounty of our bays and estuaries are essential for continued enjoyment of both people and wildlife.

Ray Allen, Executive Director of the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program - The overlap in our individual missions allows Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program and CCA Texas to be natural partners. Working together and leveraging funds, we have been able create, enhance, and restore millions of dollars of habitats for marine species, a tremendous benefit to recreational fisheries in the Coastal Bend, something both our organizations want to see.

CCA Texas and CBBEP have partnered together and with others on multiple projects in Nueces Bay, Redfish Bay, Matagorda Island, and Copano Bay.  These efforts have included a water management system in the Nueces Bay delta; marsh restoration efforts on Matagorda Island, in Copano Bay (Egery Flats) and Nueces Bay; and oyster restoration efforts.  CCA Texas and CBBEP continue to work closely in the conservation of ecosystems in the Coastal Bend.

Galveston Bay Foundation - The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 1987 under the laws of the State of Texas. The Foundation’s strength is that it involves a true cross-section of bay interests to address issues and concerns related to Galveston Bay. It is managed by a strong Board of Directors whose members represent sport and commercial fishing groups, government agencies, recreational users, environmental groups, shipping, development, and business interests. The mission of the Galveston Bay Foundation is to preserve and enhance Galveston Bay as a healthy and productive place for generations to come.

Philip Smith, GBF Director of Habitat Restoration - At the Galveston Bay Foundation we work to develop and implement coastal habitat restoration projects within the Galveston Bay complex. These projects can range from restoring a small oyster reef or protecting miles of bay shoreline from erosion and re-establish marsh habitats along these now protected shorelines. No matter the scale of the restoration project we work on, one thing is always a constant, we CAN’T do it alone! It takes partners to get these projects on the ground. We are fortunate here in Texas to have strong partners, such as CCA Texas, all working toward a common goal; to protect and restore our coastal habitats.

CCA Texas and GBF have been partners for many years. Shoreline protection and marsh restoration has been the focus of the projects CCA Texas has partnered with GBF on, and include projects in West Galveston Bay, Trinity Bay and Galveston Bay.  These projects also offer an avenue for public education and outreach through public Marsh Mania events, and other efforts with local businesses and schools.

Friends of RGV Reef – CCA Texas’s partnership with Friends of RGV Reef (FRGVR) is a success because of a strong and determined grass roots effort. FRGVR is a local 501 (c)(3) organization based in the Rio Grande Valley. Formed by an intense desire of local recreational fishermen to improve the habitat and quality of local recreational fishing, the organization came to fruition through the extensive efforts of brothers Bob and Gary Glick, Daniel Bryant and a host of other local individuals. In addition, the Port of Brownsville has provided an invaluable area for staging and loading materials that are to be deployed into the 1,600 acre nearshore reefing area. CCA Texas was involved early on in the quest for a permitted reefing area and was one of the first financial contributors to the site. CCA Texas has continued to support the reefing efforts of FRGV with multiple financial gifts, and any necessary support to help promote the effectiveness and benefits of reefing material deployments into the site. CCA Texas has contributed $461,000 to the RGV Reef to date and looks forward to continuing its support in the future.

Gary Glick, Friends of RGV President - CCA immediately understood and committed to help fund the nursery reef concept as Friends of RGV Reef was gathering stakeholders to meet with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Artificial Reefing Program. CCA Texas was present in these initial meetings to encourage TPWD to secure a USACE permit for the new nearshore site. We feel strongly that CCA Texas’s early support was a large part of the reason that TPWD Artificial Reefing Program sought to permit the largest nearshore reefing site to date, and CCA Texas’s input and financial backing has played a pivotal role in the success of the project.

Harte Research Institute and Texas A&M – CCA Texas was the founding partner at the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation with a $500,000 contribution in the fall of 2012. Since that time, this partnership has continued to grow and offer an abundance of scientific research tied to habitat restoration.

Greg Stunz, Ph.D. - We are proud to partner with the CCA on a variety of projects such as the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation, ReleaSense, and others. One in particular, is our partnership in construction of nearshore artificial reefs. This project has been tremendously successful in terms of creating habitat, but also a great fishing area that is easily accessible to anglers with smaller boats to quality red snapper fishing. However, this work is expensive and often the reefing materials are limited. Thus, this partnership provides the best science to these programs in terms of reef configuration, amount, and location that will maximize fish abundance on these structures to create reefs in the most efficient way possible. This makes an ideal partnership, where we can use science to create the most successful reefing programs possible.

Jennifer Pollack, Ph.D. - CCA has provided strong, visionary support to protect and restore coastal habitats across Texas. Their investment has allowed us to build key partnerships across the Gulf of Mexico and beyond to help make habitat restoration possible. Their leadership in the field of habitat restoration has been invaluable in increasing our understanding of historic habitat loss and developing solutions to support long-term sustainability in the future

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – CCA Texas and Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) have been partners in conservation, science, advocacy, and law enforcement efforts since CCA was established in 1977. Texas’s coastal resources have seen endless benefits of this partnership for over four decades. Without this partnership, recreational anglers and the general public may not have been able to enjoy the benefits the Texas coast offers today. CCA Texas has contributed millions of dollars to habitat projects, law enforcement equipment, research equipment, and education programs through TPWD.

CCA Texas and the TPWD Artificial Reefing Program exemplifies the benefits of this ongoing partnership. CCA Texas has contributed $1,800,000 to the eight nearshore reefing sites along the Texas coast. This partnership, along with others within the Artificial Reefing Program, has created over 3,000 acres of nearshore fisheries habitat combined in these eight sites. These sites provide not only critical habitat for nearshore species, but also quality, easy-to-reach fishing sites for recreational anglers.

Dale Shivley, TPWD Artificial Reefing Program Leader - Coastal Conservation Association Texas has been a critical link in our ability to provide for marine habitat in Texas coastal waters. Years ago, CCA recognized that marine habitat is the foundation to sustainable fish populations. By partnering with the TPWD Artificial Reef Program, they have provided support and funding for many reef projects. Success stories range from the recent reefing of a small barge and hundreds of 1-ton quarry rocks at Sabine Nearshore Reef in the north, to countless artificial materials in the Rio Grande Valley Nearshore Reef to the south. This critical habitat conservation partnership provides extensive marine habitat for popular game fishes such as red snapper and all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico offshore of Texas.

Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow and Building Conservation Trust are key components to CCA Texas, and the efforts to restore and create habitat along the Texas coast. CCA Texas and Building Conservation Trust would not be successful without the continuous efforts of volunteers and supporters. If you would like to contribute to this effort or have any questions, please contact John Blaha at [email protected] or Patrick Murray at [email protected].