The TPWD Coastal Fisheries Regulatory Process

Coastal Fisheries Outreach Specialists: Tonya Wiley and Art Morris
The TPWD Coastal Fisheries Regulatory Process
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) is the principle agency with legislative authority to pass state regulations that affect sport and commercial fishing activities within Texas marine waters. Primarily, the National Marine Fisheries Service is the other federal agency charged with regulating angler fishing methods, species retention, fishing areas, fishing times and seasons, bag, possession and length limits in federal waters. Other agencies such as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or the Texas Department of State Health Services can also impact these rules for specific species (threatened or endangered species) or particular areas (closed areas for health reasons).

No regulation is passed blindly without the opportunity for input from the affected stakeholders. The majority of marine fisheries regulations enacted in Texas are developed through what is referred to as the annual regulatory process. The regulatory process begins each summer after resource assessments are made by staff biologists. While this is the typical genesis of a possible regulatory change, stakeholders can also bring forward fisheries issues to be considered. If it is found that a significant fishery problem exists AND it can be addressed through TPWD authority, then a comprehensive assessment and analysis is completed by staff on the issue.

The regulatory process continues with a briefing to the TPW Commission in November on the issue(s) of concern. The Commission is a nine member board, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Texas Senate, which adopts policies and rules to carry out all programs of TPWD. If the Commission considers it appropriate to further investigate the fisheries concern, then they grant permission for staff to proceed with the scoping process.

During the scoping process, TPWD staff presents the biological, social and economic implications of each issue and seeks public input. Typically, scoping meetings are held coastwide and attendees have plenty of opportunity to ask questions, provide comment and bring up concerns in a candid atmosphere. The goal of scoping is to adequately inform stakeholders of the issue and the possible range of solutions including maintaining the status quo. All feedback is encouraged and always plays an important role in the development of a regulatory proposal. Without this feedback it is difficult to formulate regulatory proposals that can address concerns unknown to the preparers.

At the January Commission meeting, staff presents the proposed regulatory change and a summary of public feedback, then requests permission to proceed. If the Commission approves the request to move forward with the proposal, additional public feedback is sought during special meetings called public hearings. Public hearings are held across the state and include presentations of all inland and coastal fisheries, wildlife and other proposals up for adoption. Public hearings are more formal and structured than scoping meetings with discussion and comments typically time restricted. During the public hearing process comments and concerns can be provided in a variety of ways: by attending a public hearing, calling, mailing, faxing or e-mailing concerns to a subject related TPWD staff member or commenting online at the TPWD website ( Also, the public may also attend the Commission meeting when the proposal is up for action and provide issue related testimony.

At the March/April meeting, the Commission can take several actions concerning the proposed regulatory change: (1) Adopt the proposal as presented; (2) decide to not adopt; or (3) adopt with modifications. In most cases, unless there is an emergency situation, these adopted measures go into effect at the beginning of the upcoming license year, September 1. They are published in the Texas Register as required by state law after the Commission meeting. For the convenience of the public, the new and previously adopted fishing and hunting regulations are summarized and published in the annual edition of the Outdoor Annual or Commercial Fishing Guide available where you purchase your fishing license.

The Commission may take action on other regulatory proposals at other meetings. However, the preferred practice is to follow this annual cycle so that information in the Outdoor Annual and Commercial Fishing Guide can be distributed to anglers and hunters in ample time to become familiar with any rule changes.

The TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division management strategies are directed toward optimizing long-term utilization and sustaining fisheries populations at levels that are necessary to ensure healthy and fishable stocks of commercially and recreationally important species. The ultimate goal is to provide optimum opportunities and conservation for the rich biological diversity inherent to Texas' marine waters.

Typical Schedule for TPWD Coastal Fisheries Regulatory Process

November: Briefing to the TPW Commission on possible issue(s) for regulatory change
December January: public scoping meetings
January: Formal proposal presented to TPW Commission
February-March: Statewide public hearings
March/April: TPWD commission adopts/rejects/modifies proposal
September 1: New regulations go into effect