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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2007-04-09                                    |
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   SEARCH: public comment

[ Note: This item is more than seven years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Aaron Reed, 512-389-8046 ] [AR]
April 9, 2007
TPWD Sets Regional Management Plan for Spotted Seatrout
AUSTIN, Texas -- The world-famous spotted seatrout fishery in the Lower Laguna Madre will get an extra measure of protection beginning in September after the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted April 5 to lower the bag and possession limit for the species there from 10 to five.
The change, which was approved along with other suggested changes to the 2007-08 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation, would mark the first time the department has attempted a regional approach to managing a saltwater fishery.
The reduction in the daily bag limit addresses a downward trend in the spawning stock biomass of spotted seatrout in the Lower Laguna Madre -- a trend that runs counter to steadily increasing populations elsewhere on the coast.
Of particular concern to TPWD biologists is that spotted seatrout spawning stock biomass currently is about half what it was at the time of the 1983-1984 freeze, which resulted in a major kill of spotted seatrout and other species along the lower coast.
A greater number of reproducing fish can help stocks recover faster after such a catastrophic event.
"As we moved into this year, for the first time our spotted seatrout catch rate for the LLM has fallen below the statewide average," TPWD Coastal Fisheries Director Larry McKinney, Ph.D., told commissioners. "Spawning stock biomass continues to go down and we don't see that trend turning around unless we do something."
McKinney acknowledged that the proposal engendered considerable debate in scoping meetings and public hearings up and down the coast. Public comments ran 2,256 for the lower regional bag limits, and 1,137 against.
"There were a number of concerns about regionalization," he told commissioners. "What we're proposing is a considerable change. We can take a small step now, or somewhere down the road we take a much more severe step. We do not want to get in the situation where we have to close seasons, as Florida has done. We're in a fortunate position in Texas in that we can try to address things before they become crisis situations."
The new regulation applies to the entire Lower Laguna Madre, from Marker 21 in the Landcut, to South Bay and including the Brownsville Ship Channel and Arroyo Colorado. In a change from the proposal presented to commissioners in January, the area affected by the new regulation does not extend to the tips of the jetties at Gulf passes (the East Cut near Port Mansfield and Brazos Santiago Pass at South Padre Island), but stops at the base of the jetties.
The Gulf beaches are not included in the area, but any boats fishing in Gulf waters and landing their catches within the boundaries would be subject to the lower bag limits.
In addition to the regulation changing the bag and possession limits on spotted seatrout in the Lower Laguna Madre, the commission approved other changes in fishing regulations, including:
--Increasing the minimum length limit for sheepshead from the current 12 inches to 15 inches, in increments of 1 inch per year. This would, by 2010, allow all retained fish to have reproduced at least once.
--Implementing a "no-take" rule for Diamondback terrapins. The rule would exempt permitted non-game dealers and collectors.
--Raising the minimum size limit on tarpon from 80 inches to 85 inches. In an earlier proposal, two options were considered: raising the minimum size to 90 inches, or implementing a purely catch and release fishery for tarpon in Texas. TPWD biologists worked with Jerry Ault, Ph.D., a University of Miami expert on tarpon, to instead arrive at an 85-inch minimum that would allow Texas anglers a shot at setting a new state record but would still provide significant conservation benefits. McKinney told commissioners that, eventually, catch and release would be proposed, but that it would be most effective if regulations are standardized in other Gulf states and Mexico.
--Requiring the use of circle hooks when fishing for red snapper and maintaining the current 15-inch minimum size limit and a year-round season in state waters. Commissioners also approved the publication of a proposal to consider delegating rule-making authority with regard to red snapper to the TPWD executive director so the department could respond to changes in federal regulations more quickly. This proposal will come before the Commission for approval at the May meeting.
--Enhancing the ability of Texas enforcement officials to prosecute cases in Texas courts by adding language in the Statewide Hunting and Fishing proclamation mirroring federal rules for the red snapper commercial fishery individual fishing quota (IFQ) program. This will allow state officials to make state cases when the case would otherwise not meet the profile/economic level to warrant federal prosecution.
The commission also approved minor changes to "clean-up" current rules, including broadening the definition of what types of boats are prohibited from harassing fish; including language that makes it clear that coastal and salt waters mean the same thing; exempting offshore aquaculture operators from state bag and size limits as they land cultured fish; and allowing the use of freshwater catfish heads in crab traps.
The TPW Commission approved an Inland Fisheries recommendation increasing the possession limit for striped bass from 10 to 20 on Lake Texoma. The change would reduce angler confusion with respect to fish landed in Texas.
Also approved was a one-year extension of the current provision allowing the harvest of catfish by means of lawful archery equipment which includes crossbows. The department is still in the process of evaluating the impact of the regulation on catfish populations.
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[ Note: This item is more than seven years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ] [TH]
April 9, 2007
New 'White List' Proposed To Regulate Nongame Wildlife
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on March 28 authorized seeking public comment on a proposal to change the way nongame wildlife species are regulated. The proposal would create a "white list" of species that could be collected and sold, with all other nongame animals not on the list to be protected from commercial collection and sale.
The proposal is designed to help monitor and regulate the escalating collection and sale of wild turtles, snakes, and other nongame animals (species not covered under hunting and fishing regulations) in Texas. The change would prohibit commercial use of all Texas turtle species, protecting at least 20 types of turtles currently subject to collection and sale.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff had recommended keeping the red-eared slider on the proposed white list, which would have made it the only Texas wild turtle subject to continued commercial collection and sale. (The species is generally common and abundant in Texas.) However, commissioners instructed the staff to remove the red-eared slider from the list, effectively protecting it as well. The intent was to publish a more restrictive proposed regulation for public comment, with the understanding that it could be made less restrictive when finally adopted.
The proposed new regulations will be published this month in the Texas Register for public comment. The proposed regulations will be available on the TPWD website Public Comment page the week of April 9. The TPW Commission will consider final adoption of the new rules at its May 24 meeting. If adopted May 24, the new rules would take effect in early summer, 20 days after they are published in the Texas Register.
Wildlife biologists cite increased pressure from out-of-state collectors and dealers, fueled in part by a growing demand for turtle meat sold to China and other Asian markets. In recent years, an average of 94,442 turtles per year were collected or purchased by at least 50 Texas dealers, mostly for export from the state.
Wildlife experts are expressing particular concern about the turtle trade. Affected species include box turtles, diamondback terrapins and freshwater turtles such as map turtles, softshells, common snapping turtles and others. At least 12 recent scientific research reports indicate that commercial turtle harvest from the wild is not sustainable. At least four southeastern states in the U.S. have prohibited commercial collection of turtles from the wild, and most others are more restrictive than Texas.
Since 1999, the department has published a list of 42 wildlife species or subspecies covered under nongame permit regulations. The list includes mostly turtles (20 species), but also includes 10 species of snakes, five frogs and toads, four lizards, two mammals and one salamander. A number of other nongame species not on the list are currently collected and sold in Texas, with no permitting or reporting requirements.
Currently, anyone who possesses more than 25 specimens in the aggregate of any animal on the list must have a nongame (collector's) permit, which costs $18 for Texas residents and $60 for non-residents. Commercial operators who buy and resell listed animals must have a nongame dealer's permit, which costs $60 for residents and $240 for non-residents.
Nongame permit holders must maintain a daily log showing the date, location, and number of specimens collected or sold. Nongame dealer's permit holders must maintain a current daily record of all purchases and sales, and they are required to submit an annual report summarizing their activities to TPWD.
To develop the new white list proposal, department biologists met with a variety of user groups, including seven herpetological societies and various nongame dealers, involving approximately 300 participants total representing a wide range of interests. All parties agreed that sustainability of wildlife populations is the goal, and that there is currently a lack of population data.
Under the proposal, 84 species would be on the new white list, with annual permitting and reporting required for anyone possessing more than 25 specimens in the aggregate of listed animals. Instead of the current list regulating collection of 20 types of turtles, the new list would not allow commercial collection and sale of any native turtle species. Commercial collection and sale would also be prohibited for all other nongame species not on the white list. (See the proposed white list below.)
"For any nongame species not on the proposed white list, we're still proposing to allow people to keep a limited number of nongame animals for personal use--the current proposal is six," said Matt Wagner, TPWD wildlife diversity program director. "We want kids, for example, to be able to keep a pet turtle or two; we think that sort of thing is important."
Wagner said a number of species currently being collected and sold, including several turtles, are identified as priority species of concern in the recently completed Texas Wildlife Action Plan. He believes prohibiting collection of these species will help their populations rebound.
"There are lots of other threats out there to these reptiles and amphibians, including habitat loss and fragmentation," Wagner said. "When you have these types of species with slow reproductive rates, it's not sustainable to have commercial collection in the wild."
Wagner said prohibitions on commercial collection will give TPWD an opportunity to survey local populations of priority aquatic species, including turtles, to assess their status in Texas. Many of these species are tied to specific watersheds and river systems.
"We're never going to have enough resources to do all the surveys we'd like to do," Wagner said, "but we can focus on priority areas identified in our Wildlife Action Plan. Reporting data from dealers shows us which counties these animals are coming from, which provides another means of targeting monitoring within ecoregions already identified as priorities."
Comments on the proposed rules may be made via the TPWD website or to Robert Macdonald by email at robert.macdonald@tpwd.texas.gov or by regular mail to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744. For specific questions concerning the proposed regulations, anyone may contact Matt Wagner by email at matt.wagner@tpwd.texas.gov or by regular mail at the address above.
TPWD Proposed Nongame White List
Frogs and Toads
1. Great Plains toad (Bufo cognatus)
2. Green toad (Bufo debilis)
3. Red-spotted toad (Bufo punctatus)
4. Texas toad (Bufo speciosus)
5. Gulf Coast toad (Bufo valliceps)
6. Woodhouse's toad (Bufo woodhousei)
7. Green treefrog (Hyla cinerea)
8. Bull frog (Rana catesbeiana)
9. Couch's spadefoot (Scaphiopus couchii)
10. Plains spadefoot (Spea bombifrons)
11. New Mexico spadefoot (Spea multiplicata)
Salamanders
1. Tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)
Lizards
1. Green anole (Anolis carolinensis)
2. Chihuahuan spotted whiptail (Aspidoscelis exsanguis)
3. Texas spotted whiptail (Aspidoscelis gularis)
4. Marbled whiptail (Aspidoscelis marmoratus)
5. Six-lined racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineatus)
6. Checkered whiptail (Aspidoscelis tesselatus)
7. Texas banded gecko (Coleonyx brevis)
8. Greater earless lizard (Cophosaurus texanus)
9. Collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris)
10. Five-lined skink (Eumeces fasciatus)
11. Great plains skink (Eumeces obsoletus)
12. Texas alligator lizard (Gerrhonotus infernalis)
13. Lesser earless lizard (Holbrookia maculata)
14. Crevice spiny lizard (Sceloporus poinsettii)
15. Prairie lizard (Sceloporus undulatus)
16. Ground skink (Scincella lateralis)
17. Tree lizard (Urosaurus ornatus)
18. Side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana)
Snakes
1. Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
2. Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
3. Glossy snake (Arizona elegans)
4. Trans-Pecos rat snake (Bogertophis subocularis)
5. Racer (Coluber constrictor)
6. Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
7. Rock rattlesnake (Crotalus lepidus)
8. Blacktail rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus)
9. Mojave rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)
10. Prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis)
11. Baird's rat snake (Elaphe bairdi)
12. Great Plains rat snake (Elaphe emoryi)
13. Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta)
14. Slowinski's cornsnake (Elaphe slowinskii)
15. Western hognose snake (Heterodon nasicus)
16. Eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
17. Texas night snake (Hypsiglena torquata)
18. Gray-banded kingsnake (Lampropeltis alterna)
19. Prairie kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster)
20. Speckled or desert kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)
21. Milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum)
22. Texas blind snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis)
23. Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum)
24. Schott's whipsnake (Masticophis schotti)
25. Striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus)
26. Texas coral snake (Micrurus tener)
27. Blotched or yellowbelly water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster)
28. Broad-banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata)
29. Diamondback water snake (Nerodia rhombifer)
30. Rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus)
31. Bullsnake or gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer)
32. Texas longnose snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei)
33. Western blackneck garter snake (Thamnophis cyrtopsis)
34. Checkered garter snake (Thamnophis marcianus)
35. Western ribbon snake (Thamnophis proximus)
36. Big Bend patchnose snake (Salvadora deserticola)
37. Texas or mountain patchnose snake (Salvadora grahamiae)
38. Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus)
39. Pygmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius)
40. Ground snake (Sonora semiannulata)
41. Brown snake (Storeria dekayi)
42. Flathead snake (Tantilla gracilis)
43. Southwestern blackhead snake (Tantilla hobartsmithi)
44. Plains blackhead snake (Tantilla nigriceps)
45. Lined snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum)
46. Rough earth snake (Virginia striatula)
Mammals
1. Texas Antelope Squirrel (Ammospermophilus interpres)
2. Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus)
3. Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
4. Eastern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans)
5. Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)
6. Spotted Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus spilosoma)
7. Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus)
8. Rock Squirrel (Spermophilus variegatus)
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On the Net:
Current nongame wildlife regulations: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/faq/huntwild/nongame_permits.phtml
Proposed new regulations, online public comments: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/feedback/public_comment/
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