Presenter: Robin Riechers

Commission Agenda Item No. 5
Action
2003-2004 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Closed Season for the Use of Crab Traps
November 2002

I. Discussion: The crab resources in Texas provide for valuable sport and commercial fisheries. Over 6 million pounds are harvested annually with a dockside value of $3.5 million. Responsibility for establishing seasons, bag limits, means and methods for taking wildlife resources, including crabs, is delegated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (TPWC) under Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 61, Uniform Wildlife Regulatory Act (Wildlife Conservation Act of 1983). The crab fishery is managed using guidelines in the Crab Fishery Management Plan adopted by the Commission in 1992. That FMP noted concerns about abandoned crab traps. It is currently estimated that tens of thousands of abandoned crab traps in coastal waters result in navigation hazards and contribute to resource depletion. Senate Bill 1410 from the 77th Texas Legislature provided the Commission new authority to establish a closed crabbing season for the purpose of removing abandoned crab traps.

Proposed changes to 31 TAC, §65.78, Crabs and Ghost Shrimp, will establish a closed season for the period March 1 – March 16, 2003 during which the use of crab traps in public waters will be prohibited. Removal of abandoned crab traps will enhance boating safety and aid in the conservation and management of crab resources.

For the first year of the closure, Department staff solicited input on the appropriate length of a closed season from commercial crab fishermen, crab dealers and commercial finfish fishermen via eight outreach meetings held along the Texas Coast. Staff also consulted twice with members of the Texas Crab Advisory Committee, the Crab License Management Review Board, and the Finfish License Management Review Board. The closed period in 2002 occurred from February 16 to March 3. During the closed period 8,070 traps were collected and removed from the public waters of the state. Over 550 volunteers participated in the abandoned crab trap removal program. TPWD biologists and observers randomly selected 647 traps to determine the composition of organisms within the abandoned traps. Twenty-one different species were encountered. The most frequent species observed were blue crabs and stone crabs, which made up over 77% of the organisms released. In addition, recreationally and commercially important finfish species including black drum, red drum, flounder, spotted seatrout and sheepshead were reported and released.

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

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 31 TAC §65.78 (located in Exhibit A), concerning Crabs and Ghost Shrimp as published in the September 27, 2002 issue for 30-day public comment (27 TexReg 9138).”

Attachments - 2
1. Exhibit A - Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation. - §65.78 (Crabs and Ghost Shrimp)
2. Exhibit B - Fiscal Note (Available upon request)


Commission Agenda Item No. 5
Exhibit A

Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation

§65.78. Crabs and Ghost Shrimp.

(a) (No change)

(b) Seasons. There are no closed seasons for the taking of crabs, except as listed within this section.

(c) Closed crab trap season: It is unlawful to place or fish a crab trap in the coastal waters of the state from 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 1, 2003 [ February 16, 2002 ] through 12:00 midnight Sunday, March 16, 2003 [ March 3, 2002 ]. No crab or crab trap component may be left in the coastal waters of this state from 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 1, 2003 [February 16, 2002 ] through 12:00 midnight Sunday, March, 16, 2003 [ March 3, 2002 ].

(d)-(e) (No change.)


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