The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission moved to adopt changes in southern flounder regulations, making slight modifications to the proposed rule change.
Effective September 2020, the minimum size will be increased from 14 to 15 inches. The proposed 45 day fall closure to allow the spawning females to migrate to the Gulf was also approved but will not take effect until 2021, citing consideration of economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission also directed staff to: 1) move towards real-time reporting of commercial landings to ensure that all flounder landed under a commercial finfish license are reported to the department, and 2) further study a potential slot limit for the fishery to increase spawning biomass. In closing discussions, Vice-Chairman Arch H. “Beaver” Aplin of Lake Jackson provided supportive comments on the continued need to provide some relief to the fishery thorough the flounder stock enhancement program.
Shane Bonnot, CCA Texas Advocacy Director, provided comments to the commission citing concerns for the continued declines and need for action to conserve southern flounder. “CCA Texas appreciates the Commission taking action that considers what is best for the resource while remaining sensitive to the economic impacts that the current pandemic has had on recreational fishing guides, anglers and businesses supportive of the recreational fishing industry,” stated Bonnot. “Over the past 15 years our membership has donated over $1 million to support larval research and flounder stock enhancement. We are committed to continuing efforts that will improve this fishery and provide opportunities for the recreational angler.”
Based off online public comment and verbal comment during the meeting, there was overwhelming support from both recreational and commercial fishers to support some form of regulation change that would increase the spawning stock biomass of southern flounder – Only 1/3 of the comments provided online were in opposition of any regulation change. “I love to fish for flounder and want them to rebound so that we have more for future generations,” said Marisol De Le Garza, CCA Texas-Rio Grande Valley Board Member. “I want to do my part to conserve the fish and give the female flounder a chance to spawn.”
“CCA Texas appreciates the efforts of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop and adopt these regulation changes,” stated Rocky Chase, Chairman of the CCA Texas Government Affairs Committee. “Combining these efforts with additional management tools such as stock enhancement, angler engagement and fisheries research is a logical path forward as we continue to unpack the complexities within this struggling fishery.”
Vice-Chairman Aplin’s pledge for the department to ramp up stocking efforts of southern flounder should come to fruition in late 2020. The CCA Texas flounder building at Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson is nearing completion and the sister building in Corpus Christi is already online. With the two new buildings, Texas Parks and Wildlife staff will be capable of expanding their flounder spawning and fingerling grow-out into warmer months, giving them two rounds of production.
“CCA Texas continues to be a proud partner of the stock enhancement program,” said Robby Byers, executive director of CCA Texas. “Our hope is that with increased production capabilities, stock enhancement can aid in the recovery of the flounder fishery. TPWD has repeatedly expressed grave concern for the status of flounder stocks and we want be a part of the solution by supporting the department and raising awareness among our membership.”
Over the past 15 years, CCA Texas has donated more than $1 million to support flounder research and stock enhancement projects:
- $740,000 to the University of Texas Marine Science Institute for facilities and equipment to support larvae research.
- $14,000 to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for a skiff to aid in flounder broodstock collection.
- $40,000 to the Sea Center Texas Hatchery in Lake Jackson for flounder larvae culture equipment.
- $325,000 to the Sea Center Texas Hatchery for a flounder culture larvae culture building.