TPWD Taking Public Comment on Shrimp and Oyster Regulation Proposals

AUSTIN, April 21, 2015 – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is currently seeking public comment on proposed changes in commercial shrimp and oyster regulations. The proposals will be considered for adoption by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission at its May 21 public hearing.

The recommended changes include:

Proposed Shrimp Regulation: Eliminate the count/size requirement for commercial bay shrimpers in inside waters;

Under current rule, commercial bay shrimpers may not exceed the legal shrimp count of 50 heads-on shrimp per pound of shrimp during the fall season (August 15 – October 31). The department recently held several meetings with the shrimping community to discuss their concerns and listen to their suggestions related to current shrimp regulations. Members of the community suggested the department remove this count requirement. TPWD staff agree with this suggestion as shrimp often die when they are caught, leading to undersized shrimp being thrown back resulting in a waste of the resource.

Clarifications to Existing Shrimp Regulations:

Update a reference to the effective date of federal rules stipulating turtle excluder device (TEDs) requirements;
Correct an outdated statement regarding the waters in which TEDs are required.
Proposed Oyster Regulations: Require dead oyster shell greater than ¾” to be returned to the reef at the time of harvest and be counted as an undersized oyster, and amend the definition of “sack of oysters” to include dead oyster shell greater than ¾”.

Many of the state’s oyster reefs have been depleted and hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of cultch (material, such as oyster shell, that furnishes a place for larval oysters to attach and grow to maturity) have been removed from the state’s public oyster reefs as a consequence of oyster dredging. The majority of the cultch removed from public reefs is not recovered. The continuing removal of shell from oyster habitat poses a threat to the viability of the state’s oyster fishery, because a reduction in the cultch juvenile oysters depend on for growth results in less recruitment and, potentially, fewer legal-sized oysters.

Comment on these proposals may be made in person at the following public meetings:

Bay City — Monday, April 27, 7 p.m., Bay City Service Center, 2105 Ave M

Texas City — Tuesday, April 28, 7 p.m., Texas City Convention Center, Nessler Center, Surf Room, 2010 5th Ave North

Rockport — Wednesday, April 29, 7 p.m., Aransas County Court Room, 301 N. Live Oak

Port Lavaca — Thursday, April 30, 7 p.m., USDA Service Center, Bauer Exhibit Building, 186 County Road 101

For those who cannot attend the scheduled public meetings and would like additional details, new online resources for getting involved include recorded video presentations of the proposals and the ability to provide public comment online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/business/feedback/public_comment/..

Public comment may also be made by phone or e-mail to Jeremy Leitz (512) 389-4333; e-mail: jeremy.leitz@tpwd.texas.gov, and in writing to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, Texas 78744. The commission will also accept comment during its May 21 public hearing in Austin.

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