Presenters: Robin Riechers

Commission Agenda Item No. 5
Action
Crab License Limitation Program
April 1998

I. Discussion: Responsibility for establishing provisions enabling a commercial crab fishery license limitation program is delegated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission under Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 78, Mussels, Clams, and Crabs authorized by passage of House Bill 2542 in the Seventy-fifth Legislature. Further provisions establishing changes in seasons, bag limits, means, and methods for taking wildlife resources is delegated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission under Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 61, Uniform Wildlife Regulatory Act (Wildlife Conservation Act of 1983).

Proposed rule changes include the creation of a Crab Fishery Proclamation, § 58.201 - § 58.210, which creates the elements of a crab license management program including rules to establish: a commercial crab fishing license, eligibility requirements to receive the license in the 1998-99 license year and subsequent years, provisions for transfer of licenses, the number of licenses an individual may possess, and rules regarding license requirements when commercial crab fishing. Additionally, suspension and revocation guidelines are established associated with flagrant violations defined in this Chapter. A Review Board, made up of 9 members distributed proportionally to historical crab trap tag holders, is created to review and advise the Department regarding appeal and hardship cases for eligibility into the license management program. The provisions for a license buyback program are established which allows the Department to purchase and retire commercial crab licenses in the future.

Proposed rule changes in the Finance Proclamation, § 53.6 and § 53.7, establish license fees, transfer fees, and duplicate license fees for resident and non-resident commercial crab fisherman's license. The reference to the commercial crab trap tag fee is removed because it will not be required with the issuance of a new license. In the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation, 65.78 Crabs and Ghost Shrimp, rules proposed define the marking requirements for commercial crab fishing devices, including crab lines and crab traps. The rules regarding marking of these devices, including gear tag placement and buoy marking, are designed to reduce conflict and aid enforcement of existing regulations.

The rule changes combine to create a crab fishery license management program and should provide increasing social and economic benefits for the crab fishery in Texas. The program should stabilize effort in the fishery, thus creating a more stable and economically viable industry. The program should also provide the mechanisms needed to ensure reduction of effort through time, allowing for the long-term recovery and protection of the crab fishery.

At the January 1998 meeting of the Regulations Committee, staff was given permission to publish the proposed new rules and amendments in the Texas Register for public comment. The proposed new rules and amendments were published in the March 13, 1998 Texas Register (23 TexReg 2627-2760) for the required 30-day public comment period. A series of 20 public hearings were also held throughout the state including five coastal counties. Staff has received, reviewed, and analyzed public comment regarding the proposed new rules and amendments.

II. Recommendation: The staff recommends the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion:

"The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts new 31 TAC § 58.201-58.210 relating to the Crab Fishery Proclamation as shown in Exhibit A; adopts new rules and amendments to 31 TAC § 53.6 relating to Commercial Fishing Licenses and Tags and § 53.7 relating to Business Licenses and Permits as shown in Exhibit B; and adopts new rules and amendments to 31 TAC § 65.78 relating to Crabs and Ghost Shrimp as shown in Exhibit C."

Attachments - 4

1. Exhibit A - Crab Fishery Proclamation
2. Exhibit B - §53.6 and §53.7 Finance Proclamation
3. Exhibit C - §65.78 Crabs and Ghost Shrimp
4. Exhibit D - Fiscal Note

(Exhibit D available upon request.)


Commission Agenda Item No. 5
Exhibit A

Crab Fishery Proclamation

§ 58.201. Crab License Management Program.

Delegation of Authority. The Commission delegates power and authority to the executive director to administer the Crab License Management Program.

§ 58.202. Definitions.

The following words and terms, when used in this subchapter shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

(1) Coastal waters—All the salt water of this state (as defined in § 65.3 of this title (relating to Definitions)), including that portion of the Gulf of Mexico within the jurisdiction of the state extending nine nautical miles from the Gulf shoreline.

(2) Crab—All species in the families Portunidae and Xanthidae.

(3) Commercial crab fishing—Pursuing, taking, attempting to take, or landing crabs in this state for pay or for the purpose of sale, barter, or exchange.

(4) Possess—The act of having in possession or control, keeping, detaining, restraining or holding.

§ 58.203. Licensing.

(a) A person may not engage in commercial crab fishing without a commercial crab fisherman's license.

(b) a person may operate a boat bearing a commercial crab fisherman's license plate, ONLY if that person possesses on board the boat the following documentation:

(1) a commercial crab fisherman's license or a general commercial fisherman's license, and

(2) a copy of an affidavit permitting the boat operator to fish the commercial crab fishing devices owned by the person to whom the commercial crab fisherman's license was issued. The affidavit must contain the date, original signature of the licensee, and commercial crab license number which matches the commercial crab license plate number on the boat.

(c) A person operating a boat for the purpose of commercial crab fishing is not required to possess a commercial fishing boat license.

§ 58.204. License Expiration.

Licenses issued under authority of Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 78, and this subchapter are valid only during the yearly period for which they are issued without regard to the date on which the licenses are acquired. Each yearly period begins on September 1 and extends through August 31 of the next year.

§ 58.205. Display of License.

(a) A boat operated for the purposes of commercial crab fishing is required to have a commercial crab fisherman's license plate issued under this subchapter prominently displayed as to be clearly visible from both sides of the boat.

(b) No more than one set of commercial crab fisherman's license plates may be on board a commercial crab fishing boat at any one time.

§ 58.206. Issuance and Renewal of Commercial Crab Fisherman's License.

(a) Beginning September 1, 1998, the department will issue a commercial crab fisherman's license only to a person who documents to the satisfaction of the department that the person concurrently held each of the following licenses and tags during the period September 1, 1995 through November 13, 1996:

(1) General commercial fisherman's license;

(2) Commercial fishing boat license; and

(3) One or more commercial crab trap tags.

(b) After August 31, 1999, the department may renew a commercial crab fisherman's license only if the person seeking to renew the license held the license to be renewed during the previous license year.

(c) Individuals not meeting the requirements set forth in subsections (a) and (b) of this section may appeal by application to the Crab License Management Review Board as provided in Parks and Wildlife Code, §78.103.

(d) When evaluating a license application or license renewal application, the department may also consider department records pertaining to the applicant's history in the crab fishery.

§ 58.207. License Transfer.

(a) Except as provided in this section, a commercial crab fisherman's license may not be transferred from one person to another before September 1, 2001.

(b) A commercial crab fisherman's license may be transferred at any time, by will, or otherwise to any person who in the absence of a will would be entitled to all or a portion of the licensee's property upon death of the licensee.

§ 58.208. Limit on Number of Licenses Held; Designated License Holder.

(a) Except as provided by subsection (b) of this section, no person may hold or directly control more than three commercial crab fisherman's licenses.

(b) A commercial crab fisherman's license may only be issued to an individual. A person, other that an individual who wishes to retain or seeks to renew a license must designate an individual to whom the license will be issued.

§ 58.209. License Suspension and Revocation.

(a) The executive director, after notice and the opportunity for a hearing, may suspend a commercial crab fisherman's license if the license holder and all other operators of the vessel operated for the purposes of commercial crab fishing, in the aggregate, are convicted of two or more flagrant offenses. The suspension shall be for:

(1) six months, if:

(A) the date of each offense is within any 12-consecutive-month period after August 31, 1998; and

(B) the license holder has not previously had a commercial crab fisherman's license suspended under this section; or

(2) 12 months, if the date of each offense is within any 12-consecutive-month period and the license holder has previously had a commercial crab fisherman's license suspended under this section.

(b) License Renewal after Suspension:

(1) Except as provided by Subsection (c), a license suspension under this section does not affect the license holder's eligibility to renew the license after the suspension expires.

(2) The holder of a license that has been suspended may not apply for a renewal of the license during the period of suspension.

(c) The executive director, after notice and the opportunity for a hearing, may permanently revoke a commercial crab fisherman's license if:

(1) the license holder has previously had a commercial crab fisherman's license suspended twice under this section; and

(2) the license holder and all other operators of the vessel operated for the purposes of commercial crab fishing, in the aggregate, are subsequently convicted of two or more flagrant offenses in any 12-consecutive-month period beginning not earlier than the date of the beginning of the most recent suspension under this section.

(d) For purposes of this section, a flagrant offense includes:

(1) removing crab traps from the water or removing crabs from crab traps 30 minutes before or 30 minutes after legal crabbing hours prescribed by a proclamation of the commission;

(2) fishing crab traps in a restricted area as set forth in §65.78 of this title (relating to Crabs and Ghost Shrimp);

(3) fishing crab traps in excess of legal trap numbers prescribed by a proclamation of the commission;

(4) fishing for crabs without obtaining the appropriate license, if required, as prescribed in this section; or

(5) theft of crabs or crab traps.

§ 58.210. License buyback program.

(a) Delegation of Authority. The commission delegates power and authority to the executive director to administer the Crab License Buyback Program.

(b) Twenty percent of commercial crab fisherman's license and commercial crab fisherman's license transfer fees shall be set aside to be used only for the purpose of buying back commercial crab fisherman's licenses from a willing license holder.

(c) License buyback application period.

(1) The department will open license buyback bid application periods (hereafter referred to as application) if available funds permit.

(2) The department shall establish during each application period a deadline for receipt of all applications.

(d) License buyback application requirements.

(1) The department shall consider all applications to the Crab License Buyback Program provided the applicants meet the following requirements:

(A) A completed License Buyback Application form furnished by the department has been submitted to the Department by the application deadline;

(B) The applicant is the owner of the license submitted for buyback; and

(C) The applicant has submitted to the Department copies of all supplemental information as required in this subsection.

(2) A completed License Buyback Application shall contain:

(A) full name of the applicant;

(B) current address of applicant's residence;

(C) social security number of applicant;

(D) a copy of legal documentation that:

(i) documents applicant holds the sole rights and privileges to the license; or

(ii) documents that all members of a partnership or association, or each officer of a corporation, and the owner of a majority of a corporation's corporate stock, are in agreement to apply to the license buyback program.

(E) a copy of current commercial crab fisherman's license; and

(F) if required, the applicant's bid offer, in U.S. dollars.

(3) Department records will be used to verify all information supplied by or pertaining to the applicant's history in the crab fishery and in cases where the applicant has not provided adequate information for proper consideration of the application.

(e) Crab license buyback criteria.

(1) The department may establish criteria each license year which will be used to determine qualifications for license buyback.

(2) The department may consider:

(A) duration of participation in fishery prior to enactment of Parks and Wildlife Code, §§ 78.101-78.114;

(B) amount of funds accumulated in the Crab License Buyback Account;

(C) number of commercial crab fisherman's licenses in the fishery issued in the license year of the specific bid offer application period;

(D) bid offers from previous application periods;

(E) established open market prices for licenses; and

(F) other relevant factors.

(f) Application Ranking Procedures.

(1) Ranking values will be assigned to all applications based on the above criteria.

(2) The Department will purchase licenses beginning with the highest ranking to the lowest.

(3) If bid offers are equally ranked, the Department will rank according to the ascending alphabetical order of the applicant's last name.

(g) Notification of acceptance or rejection of application.

(1) the department will notify each applicant in writing within 45 days of receipt of application regarding acceptance or rejection of application bid offer.

(2) Applicants whose bids are accepted must then notify the department of their intent to accept or reject the offer from the department within 15 days of the postmark of the notification letter sent by the department.

(3) The unsuccessful applicant may withdraw, resubmit, or amend an application for consideration during any future application periods.

(4) The department will continue to purchase in rank order as the buyback fund permits.

(h) Delegation of purchasing authority. The department may designate other qualified agents to purchase licenses on behalf of the department provided all purchased licenses are surrendered to the department and retired.


Commission Agenda Item No. 5
Exhibit B

Finance Proclamation

License Fees And Boat And Motor Fees

§ 53.6. Commercial Fishing Licenses and Tags.

(a)-(c) (No change.)

(d) Crabbing licenses.

(1) Licenses and permits. The following license fee amounts are effective for the license year beginning September 1, 1998, and thereafter:

(A) resident commercial crab fisherman's (type 338)—$500; and

(B) nonresident commercial crab fisherman's (type 438)—$2,000.

(2) License transfers. The following license transfer fee amounts are effective for the license year beginning September 1, 1998, and thereafter:

(A) resident commercial crab fisherman's (type 368)—$500; and

(B) nonresident commercial crab fisherman's (type 468)—$2,000.

(3) Duplicate license plates. The following duplicate license plate fee amounts are effective for the license year beginning September 1, 1998, and thereafter:

(A) resident commercial crab fisherman's (type 338)—$5; and

(B) nonresident commercial crab fisherman's (type 438)—$5.

§ 53.7. Business Licenses and Permits.

Fish, bait, and shrimp licenses and tags.

(1)-(2) (No change.)

(3) The fee for the saltwater trotline tag (type 307) shall be $3.00. [Tags. The following tag fee amounts are effective for the license year beginning September 1, 1995, and thereafter the fee for the:]

[(A) saltwater trotline tag (type 307) shall be $3.00; and

[(B) commercial crab trap tag (type 305)—$1.50].


Commission Agenda Item No. 5
Exhibit C

Crabs and Ghost Shrimp

Subchapter A. Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation

§65.78. Crabs and Ghost Shrimp.

(a) Bag, possession and size limits.

(1)-(2) (No change.)

(3) It is unlawful to:

(A) possess egg-bearing (sponge) crabs or stone crabs;

(B) possess blue crabs less than five inches in width, (measured across the widest point of the body from tip of spine to tip of spine) except that not more than 5%, by number, of undersized crabs may be possessed for bait purposes only, if placed in a separate container at the time of taking;

(C) Remove or possess the left claw from a stone crab (each retained claw must be at least 2-1/2 inches long as measured from the tip of the immovable claw to the first joint behind the claw);

(D) fail to return immediately a stone crab to the waters where caught; or

(E) buy or sell a female crab that has its abdominal apron detached.

(F) possess more than 20 ghost shrimp (Callichiris islagrande, formerly Callianassa islagrande) per person.

(b)-(c) No change.

(d) Devices, means and methods.

(1) It is unlawful to take, attempt to take, or possess crabs caught by devices, means, or methods other than as authorized in this subchapter.

(2) Only the following means and methods may be used for taking crabs:

(A) Crab line. It is unlawful to fish a crab line for commercial purposes that is not marked with a floating white buoy not less than six inches in height, six inches in length and six inches in width bearing the commercial crab fisherman's license plate number in letters of a contrasting color at least two inches high attached to the end fixtures.

(B) Crab trap. It is unlawful to:

(i)-(iii) (No change.)

(iv) fish a crab trap that:

(I)-(II) (No change.)

(III) is not equipped with a degradable panel. A trap shall be considered to have a degradable panel if one of the following methods is used in construction of the trap:

(-a-) the trap lid tie-down strap is secured to the trap [at one end] by a [simple] loop of untreated jute twine (comparable to Lehigh brand # 530) or sisal twine (comparable to Lehigh brand # 390). The trap lid must be secured so that when the twine degrades, the lid will no longer be securely closed; or

(-b-) the trap lid tie-down strap is secured to the trap by a loop of untreated steel wire with a diameter of no larger than 20 gauge. The trap lid must be secured so that when the wire degrades, the lid will no longer be securely closed; or

(-c-) [(-b-)] the trap contains at least one sidewall, not including the bottom panel, with a rectangular opening no smaller [in either dimension] than 3 inches by 6 inches. Any obstruction placed in this opening may not be secured in any manner except:

(-1-) it may be laced, sewn, or otherwise obstructed by a single length of untreated jute twine (comparable to Lehigh brand # 530) or sisal twine (comparable to Lehigh brand # 390) knotted only at each end and not tied or looped more than once around a single mesh bar. When the twine degrades, the opening in the sidewall of the trap will no longer be obstructed[.]; or

(-2-) it may be laced, sewn, or otherwise obstructed by a single length of untreated steel wire with a diameter of no larger than 20 gauge. When the wire degrades, the opening in the sidewall of the trap will no longer be obstructed; or

(-3-) the obstruction may be loosely hinged at the bottom of the opening by no more than two untreated steel hog rings and secured at the top of the obstruction in no more than one place by a single length of untreated jute twine (comparable to Lehigh brand # 530), sisal twine (comparable to Lehigh brand # 390), or by a single length of untreated steel wire with a diameter of no larger than 20 gauge. When the twine or wire degrades, the obstruction will hinge downward and the opening in the sidewall of the trap will no longer be obstructed.

(v) fish a crab trap for commercial purposes that is not marked with a floating white buoy not less than six inches in height, six inches in length, and six inches in width attached to the crab trap;

(vi) fish a crab trap for commercial purposes that is not marked with a floating white buoy bearing the commercial crab fisherman's license plate number in letters of a contrasting color at least two inches high attached to the crab trap;

(vii) fish a crab trap that is marked with a buoy bearing a commercial crab fisherman's license plate number other than the commercial crab fisherman's license plate number displayed on the crab fishing boat;

(viii) [(vi)] fish a crab trap for non-commercial purposes without a floating white buoy not less than six inches in height, six inches in length, and six inches in width, bearing a two-inch wide center stripe of contrasting color, attached to the crab trap;

(ix) [(vii)] fish a crab trap in public salt waters without a valid gear tag. Gear tags must be attached within 6 inches of the buoy and are valid for 30 days after date set out.

(x) [(viii)] fish a crab trap within 200 feet of a marked navigable channel in Aransas County; and in the water area of Aransas Bay within one-half mile of a line from Hail Point on the Lamar Peninsula, then direct to the eastern end of Goose Island, then along the southern shore of Goose Island, then along the eastern shoreline of the Live Oak Peninsula past the town of Fulton, past Nine Mile Point, past the town of Rockport to a point at the east end of Talley Island including that part of Copano Bay within 1,000 feet of the causeway between Lamar Peninsula and Live Oak Peninsula or possess, use or place more than three crab traps in waters north and west of Highway 146 where it crosses the Houston Ship Channel in Harris County;

(xi) [(ix)] remove crab traps from the water or remove crabs from crab traps during the period from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise;

(xii) [(x)] place a crab trap or portion thereof closer than 100 feet from any other crab trap, except when traps are secured to a pier or dock;

(xiii) [(xi)] fish a crab trap in public waters that is marked with a buoy made of a plastic bottle(s) of any color or size; or

(xiv) [(xii)] use or place more than three crab traps in public waters of the San Bernard River north of a line marked by the boat access channel at Bernard Acres.

(C)-(D) (No change.)

(e) Effective Dates. The provisions of subsections (a)-(c), (d)(1)-(d)(2)(B)(iv)(II), and (d)(2)(B)(v)-(d)(2)(B)(xiv), above shall take effect September 1, 1998.


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