By Shane Bonnot,
In an effort to match recent federal water regulation changes, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission directed department staff to publish proposed regulation changes that may be of interest to offshore anglers.
The first change would be to prohibit take of shortfin mako sharks. Effective July 5, 2022, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) enacted a final rule prohibiting the landing or retention of shortfin mako sharks in any U.S. Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS) fishery until further notice. The Coastal Fisheries Division proposes to add shortfin mako to the list of prohibited shark species for both the recreational and commercial fishing proclamations.
Secondly, and likely of greater interest to anglers is the proposal to reduce the daily bag limit of cobia to one fish per person, per day and establish a vessel limit of two fish per trip, not to exceed the per person bag limit, for the recreational and commercial fisheries. This change is proposed to address declining stocks of cobia in the Gulf of Mexico and to facilitate ease of enforcement with federal regulations. It is worth noting, for better or worse, establishing a vessel limit regulation would be a departure from historic Texas coastal fisheries regulations.
Finally, the state is proposing to require anglers to use a descending device on a fish exhibiting signs of barotrauma when fishing in state waters, mirroring the Direct Enhancement of Snapper Conservation and the Economy through Novel Devices Act of 2020 (DESCEND Act) in Gulf of Mexico federal waters. The DESCEND Act applies to commercial vessels, charter vessels and headboats, and private recreational vessels fishing for reef fish such as red snapper. The DESCEND Act requires fishermen to have a venting tool or descending device rigged and ready to use when fishing for reef fish. This amendment would require anglers to utilize a venting tool or descending device in state waters when fish exhibit signs of barotrauma.
This change will ease enforcement through consistency with federal regulations and reduce discard mortality of reef fish in state waters. The proposed amendment also would define “descending device” and “venting tool.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will seek public comment on all of these proposed rule changes prior to the March 22-23, 2023 Commission Meeting. Be sure to keep an eye out for notifications from CCA Texas on how you can participate in the public hearings.