Victory for Conservation: Spotted Seatrout Regulation Changes on the Horizon

CCA Texas Staff
Victory for Conservation: Spotted Seatrout Regulation Changes on the Horizon
As a last stand to conserve oyster habitat on the Texas coast, the Mesquite Bay complex was closed to oyster harvest permanently in November of 2022. The future is now and conservation efforts must continue up and down the Texas coast to conserve and restore lost oyster habitat.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (TPWC) approved changes to Spotted Seatrout regulations, modifying the daily bag limit from 5 fish to 3 fish and tightening the slot limit from 15-25 inches to 15-20 inches. The daily allowance threshold for one oversized fish as part of the three-fish-bag was also changed from 25 inches to 30 inches.

TPWD estimates these changes can result in a 27% increase in spawning stock biomass over the course of a generation of Spotted Seatrout (seven years). Barring influences that impact juvenile recruitment or adult mortality events – such as winter freeze events – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) staff anticipate the benefits will be magnified the longer that they are in effect.

TPWD received 2,851 comments on the proposed regulation changes. 36% (1,021) were completely supportive of the published proposal, 38% (1,072) supported and objected to aspects of the proposal, and 25% (714) were completely opposed to any change.

Prior to the TPWC meeting, the CCA Texas Executive Board voted to support the TPWD proposal to reduce the bag limit to a daily possession of 3-fish and to modify the slot limit to 15-20 inches. CCA Texas recommended no allowance for oversized fish to be retained as a part of the 3-fish bag until a tag system for fish 25-inches or greater can be implemented by TPWD.

TPWD will soon publish a new proposal and solicit public comment on the development of a tag system for oversized Spotted Seatrout, which will be considered for adoption at the TPWC meeting on March 28, 2024.

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission is to be commended for enacting these regulation changes with a sense of urgency before the 2024 Spotted Seatrout spawning season. The fishery will reap the benefits from their expeditious action,” stated Shane Bonnot, CCA Texas Advocacy Director. “We look forward to the upcoming discussion on the creation of a tagging system for oversized Spotted Seatrout and believe it will promote conservation while allowing recreational anglers an opportunity to keep their personal ‘trophy’ fish.”

“TPWD resource data clearly showed that the averaged coast-wide catch effort is well below the previous 10-year mean,” stated Rocky Chase, Chairman of the CCA Texas Government Affairs Committee. “This decision by the Parks and Wildlife Commission displays management with a vision for the future, and the next generation of anglers owe them a debt of gratitude for their actions.”

Conservation Efforts Continue for Oyster Reef Restoration and Management

Texas oyster reefs are a critical component of the natural landscape, providing important services for our bay systems and coastline. It is important that organizationally and as individual conservationists the efforts continue for the benefit of Texas coastal ecosystems.

The value and services oyster reefs provide are undeniable. Oyster reefs…

  • Are critical in determining current, acting as baffles slowing water surges and stemming shoreline erosion
  • Are a seed source for adjacent reefs
  • Serve as habitat for hundreds of aquatic species
  • Provide recreational fishing opportunities
  • Offer other numerous ecosystem services with ecological benefits far greater than the harvest value

While resilient, the oyster fishery has limitations, and we must be proactive in our continued efforts to improve its sustainability and promote reef growth.

CCA Texas is dedicated to the conservation of oyster reefs along the Texas coast and is represented in multiple work groups and initiatives. TPWD has two workgroups, the Oyster Regulations Work Group and the Oyster Restoration Work Group. Additionally, CCA Texas has a seat at the table of the Mesquite Bay Restoration Initiative. As the name implies, the TPWD Regulations Work Group focuses on the regulatory processes used in the management of the harvest of Texas oysters. This group is made up of industry representatives, academics, and non-governmental organizations all working for common ground on the best practices to ensure a sustainable oyster fishery for the present and future. The TPWD Restoration Work Group focuses on restoration efforts and techniques, while also identifying the best areas for restoration efforts that will be carried out by TPWD. These areas include those in areas open to harvest and those in closed areas as well. Members of this work group also include those from industry, academics, and non-governmental organizations.

The Mesquite Bay Restoration Initiative is made up of representatives from FlatsWorthy, CCA Texas, Texas A&M Corpus Christi Harte Research Institute (HRI), Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP), Palacios Marine Agriculture Research (PMAR), Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and Texas General Land Office (TXGLO). This group is focused on identifying and prioritizing sites for restoration efforts in the Mesquite Bay complex. As the process evolves and sites are identified, members will determine permit holders, engineering needs, methods, and project timelines to accomplish the individual projects. The effort to restore damaged and lost oyster habitat will be a long-term effort, and one that will need the support of many conservation minded groups.

Oyster regulatory management, restoration and creation efforts are critical to the health of our coastal eco-systems from Sabine Lake to the Rio Grande River. The historical losses that have occurred in the last decade due to environmental impacts and over harvest will take years to recover. Governmental agencies, academics, non-governmental organizations, and industry must all play a role in the efforts to ensure the sustainability of oyster reefs for generations to come.

For more information about CCA Texas efforts to conserve Texas’s oyster reefs, please visit the Advocacy Resource Pages at