Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Regulations Committee Meeting

Jan. 24, 2007

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 24th day of January, 2007, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:

APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:

P R O C E E D I N G S

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Regulations. The first order of business is the approval of the previous Committee meeting minutes which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER BROWN: So moved.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Moved by Brown, second by Holt. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Hearing none, the motion carries. Committee Item 1. Land and Water Plan update, Mr. Cook, will you make your presentation.

MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. As you heard this morning, TPWD staff continues its efforts to simplify its licensing options for hunters and anglers in Texas in both Commission and Legislative action may be necessary to accomplish a reduction of licenses offered. And we will continue to work on that and keep you informed and involved.

TPWD staff has evidence that spotted seatrout along the lower Texas coast may require a different approach to conservation than the northern population. Scoping meetings have occurred over the last several months to solicit feedback on a regionalized regulatory approach. If approved, this proposal would represent the Agency's first effort to regulate coastal waters on a regionalized basis. Lastly, as of January 1st, 2007, all qualifying trail vehicles are required to display a current Texas Off-highway Vehicle decal when riding their vehicles on public land in Texas. Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Mr. Cook. Item 2, 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation, permission to publish. Dr. Larry McKinney first.

MR. MCKINNEY: Mr. Chairman and members. For the record, I am Dr. Larry McKinney. I am Director of Coastal Fisheries. Start this process. As Mr. Cook noted in his notes, we have been scoping this issue since this summer. And we have made an effort to make sure that anyone that might be affected by this had a chance to hear about it. And in fact, we have had about ten scoping hearings altogether, and have heard from some 246 people. So we have had a lot of input so far, and it has all been very valuable, which we appreciate.

The issues that I will be covering in the proposal include changes to the regulations for sheephead, the diamondback terrapin, tarpon, spotted seatrout and them some clean-up items, and then one additional item regarding red snapper that has come up and I want to talk with you about.

Take a look at sheephead, just very quickly. This fish comprised about 4 percent of all the recreational landings, and most of them are recreational, as you can see. There is not much of a commercial fishery for them, although there is some. The current bag and size limits are the same for recreational and commercial, except of course, commercial have no daily bag limits, whereas the recreational anglers have a five fish per day limit.

Our proposal that we brought to you earlier this fall was to increase the minimum size from 12 to 15 inches. This is something we want to do for all of our fish that are caught recreationally, to make sure that they go through one full reproductive cycle before they are removed, potentially removed from the fishery. But one of the things that we begin to think about and talk about after this proposal came forward is a concern that if we were to take our 12-inch minimum size limit now, and jump it immediately to 15, then in fact, we might close that fishery down for a year or so if we take them out of there. So we didn't want to do that, because the fishery is not in trouble. We want to keep the opportunity there, but we want to move it in the right direction.

So our solution would be to do this incrementally. So that next year, it would go to 13, then 14, and then 15. And let the fishery and the fisherman anglers move together and keep on track. So that is how we would propose moving forward with our proposal to public hearing.

Comments? There were not a lot of concerns with the proposal. There were some questions about the biology, of course, and we talked about that. A good comment and one that we thought of ourselves, of course, is the sheepshead is a great fish for kids, and that is important. And there were some comments that we should only target commercial fisheries, but, of course, that wouldn't do as much good, if most of the landings are recreational. So that was kind of the bulk of those scoping comments.

Texas Diamondback Terrapins, this is a species that occurs up and down the coasts. Not a lot of them. We are concerned, of course, about that population as we talked to you about in the scoping meeting. We do see them in our crab traps and that type of thing, is where we have encountered them mostly. When you look at some of the information about where they occur, you can get some indications from that. There is a growing market for these things across the country. And you can see they are $125 each. That is one price. They can become quite valuable. And there is no market for them, or no industry for them here in Texas right now. And we frankly don't want to see one. I can get started and go down the road of going through endangered species, and all that kind of business.

So what we proposing to go out to public hearing with is a no-take provision except, of course, for the permitted non-game dealers. Now wildlife is going to be talking to you all right after this about the broader non-game program. And basically, we are going to put this out for public comment, but we want to work with them as they look at the broader issue and make sure it meshes. But we will get them some comments on what people think about this during the public hearing and it will be of use to them. But we will make sure that whatever we recommend to you will be meshed in with their bigger picture.

Tarpon proposal. This is ‑‑ we did this, of course, last year, as well. The current size limit of 80 inches was put into place last year. The intent of that size and bag limit of one was to allow a potential state record fish to be returned, and in fact, one was, as we knew at Expo. And so in order to keep up with that, we would have to move that minimum size length up to 90 inches. We had not a lot of comments on this proposal. But one that we did hear quite a bit about is, why shouldn't we just go to a catch and release fishery altogether, and frankly I have a lot of sympathy for that. I think there is some support for it. And so I want to make sure that when we go out for public comment, I want to bring that up and make that mention that we will be looking at that, and get some input. My concern is that most of our scoping hearings so far have been in the lower Coast in relation to the spotted seatrout. And there is a significant fishery up in Galveston.

So I just want to make sure before we put a proposal out like that, that everyone has a chance to say their piece and give us their input. But if we don't come back with it this time, we will probably come back next year and take a look at it, and make sure it is fully scoped, and everyone has a chance to have some input on it.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So catch and release is not an option in scoping. Catch and release, no bag limit ‑‑

MR. MCKINNEY: It can be. If we get enough public comment. We can do that.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But what is Florida?

MR. MCKINNEY: I should know that. But I don't.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Because you know, I have been tarpon fishing there, and I have never heard of anybody killing a tarpon there.

MR. MCKINNEY: I don't know what the rules are, but they typically don't. And I will find out.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Somebody is shaking their head back there.

MR. MCKINNEY: I don't know if that is official or not. I know unofficially, very seldom ‑‑

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Usually, on the record, they just take a picture and tape it, and that is it.

MR. MCKINNEY: I am pretty sure it is a length girth thing there. The only place I know where they kill them anymore, I still have a few tournaments. There has been some Louisiana tournaments that they still do that and require that. Most of the tournaments are that. I will find out for you and get you that information. I should know that.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay.

MR. MCKINNEY: All right. Let's move to the mainland spotted seatrout. I won't spend much time, as we went over this with you last time. But if you have any questions, I certainly will be glad to answer them. Just to make a point in relation to some comments we heard at the scoping meeting. One of our concerns is, of course, is that typically our gill net catches for spotted seatrout in the Laguna Madre have been two to three times that of anywhere else on the coast. But as you can see from the graph, they steadily have been going down. And for the first time in 2006 this year, they have dropped below the coastwide average. And of course, that is the concern that we are talking about.

What can we do to return that population to where it probably should be for the lower Laguna? This is the one that certainly has our attention from a biological perspective. This is the spawning stock biomass. This is just the weight of reproductive re-viable females in the population, which is key to recruitment and recovery from catastrophic conditions and so forth. And you can see it is headed down precipitously. This is certainly on my mind right now. We have been looking into some long range weather forecasts, and right now, in the long range forecast, within two weeks, not this weekend but next, there is a high probability of a Siberian cold front coming through here, with predicted freezing temperatures down into the Yucatan. And it could be one of the worst, some predictions of the level of freeze, something like 1983, which was disastrous. This whole discussion may be academic, unfortunately, if we have that. We may have a real serious deal.

So that is why in between these meetings, I have been working with my guys. We are getting everyone together to get set to do what we can on that type of thing, and be ready for that. So it is a big concern for us, and we are looking down the road, hoping we are all wrong on that.

This graphic, looking at the distribution of fish through length classes, size classes, and this one of course, is the one telling where we are taking a look at where we are seeing the fish disappearing in the population. When you look at this graphic and we split it between 1985 and 2001 as one group, and after 2002 to 2005 is a second group, primarily because we put some regulations into place at the end of 2000.

To show there, if you can look at the length classes, from the 12 to 14 and the 14 to 16, you can see that in the last five years, or since 2002, we have actually seen more numbers or higher numbers of that class of fish than in the 15 years before, but when you get into the 18 to 20, it begins to shift, and you see them beginning to disappear and have fewer than there was previously. Classically, you have to say, okay. What is taking 20-inch trout? And there is only one thing I can think of that does that, and that is us. So it is a strong indicator to us that fish immortality is a real issues and that we can have an impact. And so that is the basis of looking at a proposed regulation.

We looked at number scenarios, as I noted at our last briefing. We did look at changing the minimum size lengths up to 16, but we have opted against that, because we didn't see much of an impact on the population model. So the range of options that we have looked at from a biological perspective has been from seven to three fish. And the impacts of that and how they affect population harvest and so forth are laid out on this chart.

I would tell you from our biologists' perspective, a number of our biologists are very much ‑‑ this is something they look at very closely of course. If you were managing this thing strictly on that level, they would probably say we should look at a four or a three-fish bag. What I would like to propose to go forward on briefing with is to reduce the current ten-fish bag to five and get public comment on that, and see where we are going.

One of the reasons that I feel comfortable with proposing this is that according to our models, and, of course, our models are very powerful because of the data that is in them, we will be able to tell within the first two years if we are down the right path, because after we looked at ‑‑ if we look at that information. Make sure I get the correct numbers here. We will see about fifty percent of the benefits from this exercise within the first year and eighty percent within the second year for most of our fish. Now the older fish, the bigger fish, they will take a little longer.

We will see about a twenty percent of the benefits in the first year and about forty percent by the second. So in two to three years, we will see if we are on the right track. Of course, we look at it every year, and we always will. But we'll see those benefits, even with the five-bag limit. So that is the reason that I would propose to go to public hearing with that.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Barring a potential freeze.

MR. MCKINNEY: Yes, sir. As I say, we may be back before you with something entirely different, but I hope not. As far as the proposal itself and boundaries, in working with our law enforcement groups, that of course, knows that area down there really well. Gary Palmer and others.

The northern boundary that we would propose which would be at what is called Market 21. There is a wellhead channel across there that makes it real easy for people to know where it is. Without having a GPS, they will see that. So that would be the northern boundary. We would also use the mouth of the two sets of jetties; Mansfield and Port Isabel. And, of course, include South Bay, the Arroyo Colorado and the Brownsville Ship Channel in that boundary.

And within those boundaries, to try to make it as simple and straightforward as possible, basically, if you are within those boundaries in your boat, or landing your boat on the shore, you should ‑‑ whatever the limit is set, that is what they have to have. If is five, then they can't have any more than five. They can't ‑‑ we won't get in a situation where they would say, oh, I have been out in the Gulf. I have come back in. I caught my fish in the Gulf, so I can have ten or whatever. No.

If you are within the boundaries, there needs to be five fish in your possession, to make that law enforcement issue ‑‑ don't get in a situation like we have had in Sabine and other places where we have differential issues going on. That is what we would propose there. Of course, you might expect, we have had lots of comments and I am sure you have heard them as well. And just a very brief summary of some of them here.

Of course, there is concerns over biological need and from that perspective, I think we are in an excellent position to lay out our scientific basis of this proposal. The data we think, is very good and compelling. Certain concerns over regionalization, because this is a whole new attack for us. Not necessarily for us, I shouldn't say that. In our commercial fisheries in Texas, we have been doing regional management forever. And of course, other states use this approach too.

So it is not new, but new for us. And so, unfamiliarity and some concern over just that whole concept was certainly voiced. Some concerns over how the impacts on guided trips and really, the economics types of things. How would this affect the economics here, versus upper, the rest of the state, and that type of thing. All legitimate questions.

Where we have seen some preferences, we have had a lot of comments saying, five fish or something, we think we could live with. We have heard other comments, three and four of course. But the preponderance of comments that we have heard so far have been five. And, of course, when we put a solid proposal out there for comment, that will get people talking. So we will hear something entirely different. But at this point, that is what has been on the table. I am sorry. That was the last one.

Are there any questions on that particular one? I will continue with the others. Okay. Some of the cleanup type items. We talked to you last time about we have a rule in the books about harassment of fish. And in our books, it has basically talked about airboats, when it was put in place, back in the mid-'80s. We wanted to just go ahead and make that apply to all vessels. That has raised some concerns about what are we trying to do something in particular, aiming at something new. But in fact, no we are not.

This is just a technical fix for us. To make sure that if a situation does occur, and we really haven't seen of those, talking to our law enforcement guys, haven't seen that necessarily or haven't taken or filed anything like that. But this would just make sure that if it ever happened, it is all vessels, not just one particular vessel they would look at. That is where we are on that.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: What would harassment look like?

MR. MCKINNEY: Well, I think it is how our Law Enforcement guy says, when I see it, I know it. I can't really give you much more than that. But the idea was, at the time when this was passed, it just concerned about using airboats to herd school redfish up against the shore and hold them there. That is what the intent was. Some concerns have been raised, well, if I am out there drifting up on fish in the middle of the bay under birds and I drift through there, is that harassment? And that has not typically ‑‑ we are not talking about that. I don't think that is ‑‑ it has never been used to this date. So that is where it is.

MR. COOK: Whatever it is, it looks the same from an airboat or a canoe or whatever.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. MCKINNEY: Whatever it is. We didn't think we were raising it ‑‑

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Will be allowed to go back to the seatrout issue?

MR. MCKINNEY: Chairman, however, whatever you wish.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I don't want to interrupt you.

MR. MCKINNEY: No. It is however you want.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Do you want to finish your presentation?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I didn't know that we were leaving seatrout and going on.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Go ahead and finish and then come back to that discussion.

MR. MCKINNEY: Okay. Yes, sir. Okay. That was all that, another cleanup item. At your last meeting, you adopted rules to regulate offshore aquaculture along the coast. And one of the things that we failed to include there, and didn't think about a time course, is when you have these offshore facilities. And they are raising fish, and they are ready to harvest these fish and bring them to shore, they are still subject to normal bag limits if they were raising cobia or something like that. Well, that, of course, won't work for aquaculture outfits. We have got to make sure that they are legal. So we need to exempt them from bag limits, so that when they do that commercial operation land in there, they won't violate any law. So we need to provide that for them. A very much of a cleanup item. There is some inconsistency between statutory language, which talks about our issues as a coastal boundary and we are talking about the boundary line between freshwater and saltwater, for example, we talk about coastal.

In our proclamation, we talk about the saltwater boundary. So to make it more straightforward and link those two things up for our Law Enforcement use, we just want to add the words "coastal" and "saltwater" just to make sure that people know that it is the same thing. Talking about that there is no differentiation there. An item that we didn't talk about last time, but one that has come up and this was something I talked with Colonel Kino Flores about and Bill Robinson that handles the fisheries issues. And this is something we would like to put on the table for scoping to assist them in dealing with red snapper. The Gulf Council recently of course, passed a commercial provision that sets up an IFQ program for commercial staff who are fishing throughout the gulf. Give them an IFQ. And there is certain rules and regulations for it.

Well, of course, our Law Enforcement folks can enforce federal laws. We have a joint memo to do it. But for example, if they arrested someone for a violation of the federal, a commercial federal rule here, it has to go to federal court. And if it is not a big enough case, the Attorney General just simply doesn't have the resources to pursue it and they are not going to. Whereas, if we were to mirror and adopt those federal rules into state rules, then our game wardens would have the option to go to state court on smaller cases, or wherever, and get more action. Therefore, we would have a chance. We would pursue more cases to make sure that we are prosecuting violators of the commercial fisheries to the full extent possible. And it certainly makes sense, and we would like to go out to public scoping with that proposal and see if we get the support, which I certainly think we would. And so that is that item. And I believe, Mr. Chairman, that was the extent of it.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Larry. Commissioner Parker.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: First of all, let's just stay with the red snapper thing.

MR. MCKINNEY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: You partially covered my first item this morning, about acquiring and trying to investigate, if we can create a licensing system for the party boat. I am glad we covered that this morning. What about ‑‑ how can we ‑‑ is there any way that we can work with ‑‑ well, maybe we just have to leave the National Marine Fisheries Service and just paddle our own boat in our state waters. So that we don't come to a place where we have got to severely restrict the number of red snapper that an individual can keep. How can we address this?

MR. MCKINNEY: Thank you for the opportunity. I think there are a number of things we can do, and I just thought of one thing I was going to add to this. I just had it my pocket here. I will bring it out in a second. Clearly, the idea of putting these federal rules into place in state will help that. That is a big plus there. Creating a licensing system to make it as easy as possible for those charter boat and head boat operators to do their business is a plus. There is also an opportunity to work within the Gulf Council. Now right now, in fact, he would be up here with me, Robin Reichers who's on our staff, is Chairman of the Gulf Council at this time. And right now, I mean at this minute, they are debating the federal rules. And it is not going too well from our perspective.

The total allowable catch proposal is going down just like an auction, a reverse auction. It is getting lower and lower. It is more and more of concern. So that is one place obviously, working there, one area in which we could and need to work as much as we can. We are trying to, but any help would available is that whatever the federal regulations come out with is to allow or try to ‑‑ there is provisions that allow regions like Texas to, within the allowable take, allowable catch, to set our seasons and our limits as best as possible.

So we want to encourage the National Marine Fishery Service to give us those options, that whatever our allowable catch is, let us manage it. It works best for our industry. It helps our tourism and others. If they have it, I think we can set our season during the summer or winter or whenever we want to as opposed to having to live with something that has gone Gulf-wide. So working with that, we need to push that as much as we can.

The other, right now we have a different season. We have a four-bag, 15-inch bag and size limit for red snapper in state waters, and which in federal waters, it will probably be two fish and 13. Our population, I think, can sustain, continue those state regs ‑‑ that will give ‑‑ and we don't have closed season. Where the feds have a closed season. So I don't see any reason right now why we should change that. And we can leave our state waters open to give those folks an opportunity to do something there.

There has been some proposal, I know, that should we drop our limit down the 13 at least to match the Feds in that way. And there is some issues that we just ‑‑ I have to get my biologist, my modeler and take a look at it. I just don't know yet. I need to make ‑‑ I can give some biological basis. I can't do that right now, but it is worth looking at. The other thing that we could go out to scoping with, and you have these two. And that is, and this is something the Feds are considering. And I think it would be very helpful. And that is, to look at a regulation that requires the use of circle hooks-type thing. They may go to this in the Feds. And this is one way that helps reduce the hooking mortalities. And I am just going to pass these around, if I can do it without sticking you.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I started mine around.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. MCKINNEY: I'm going to have a workman's comp claim here. But this is something that I would like to add to that scoping list, too, that we put into effect not only the Federals but that we go to a required circle hook type of thing. And that might be a ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: What does that achieve? Tell me what benefit it has.

MR. MCKINNEY: It helps reduce what we call gut hooking. A J hook, in particularly, they swallow them. They could swallow them. Then you get these deep hooks that is in the gills and in the innards. The circle hooks typically, as you will see as they are coming around, they typically hook in the side of the mouth or something like that. And so that might be helpful there. I think that it is worth scoping if we go take a look at it.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Okay.

MR. MCKINNEY: So those are the things, Commissioner Parker, that I think we ought to be doing.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Do you want to include this in our scoping meetings.

MR. MCKINNEY: If you all would like to support that, we would roll it in there along with those snapper rules to see what people think about it.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Montgomery.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I am glad to see that we are maybe headed the IFQ route. Could you summarize why you think IFQ is going to be a better regulatory mechanism for the [inaudible] sound population?

MR. MCKINNEY: It is ‑‑ right now, what we have and have had until we have gotten to the red snapper for example, we have what is called a derby. In that basically, there is a certain amount of poundage of fish, red snapper that you can take, a total amount. And basically, whoever gets there first gets it done. So it is in your best interest as a fisherman, a commercial fisherman to get out there and fish no matter what the situation is, the weather, our position is take as much as you can, as quickly as you can. With an IFQ, it really turns it more toward the market system. Basically, based on your historic fisheries background record, the allowable catch is allocated amongst all the users. We now have a limited entry.

And basically after that, if you have a certain amount of poundage that is yours. You can go get it tomorrow, the next day, you can spread it out however you want to. You can sell that quota, you can get out of the business. You can do all types of things with it that not only probably makes more market sense, but certainly from a conservation standpoint, it is a big issue that will help take this situation around where everyone is out there trying to get the same fish at the same time.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, it was the over-capitalization issue, like you have with the shrimp, and the Bay shrimpers.

MR. MCKINNEY: Exactly. Take care of that issue.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: And with his opening remarks about changing the laws to where it would become a violation that could be taken to the Texas state courts, instead of the federal courts, would give law enforcement and in fact, the fishermen a bigger place at the table.

MR. MCKINNEY: That is exactly right. Also, with the IFQ, for example, one option, our head boat, our charter boat groups, are not really sold there yet. But I think very strongly for example that if we get to a situation where we allocate the recreational fisheries, if we could get an allocation of snapper for those guys, then basically we say, here is what you can take in red snapper. Then our party boats, they can go whenever they want to. They can set to sea when it is best for their business, knowing that they will have a certain amount that they can go after, rather than as we are now, it is still a seasonal basis. I think there is some pluses there, that we could go down the road if some of that is there on the table.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions of Larry?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Larry. Thanks. Next up, Ken. Excuse me.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Just a moment. To the seatrout issue. I didn't get that. I have some questions about that. Larry, fellow Commissioners, I don't know why but ‑‑

MR. MCKINNEY: You are not going to open that right here in front of us, are you?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I am going to open it right here.

MR. MCKINNEY: Can I get you some water?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I am going to open it right here. I hadn't opened it. This is from, you know the seatrout issue. I just think we ‑‑ I am not going to make any recommendations. I am just saying that we need to be careful. Because this is not only a biological issue ‑‑

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: He must know what is in that box, otherwise, he wouldn't be opening it.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER PARKER: You know, it is a little deal to a bunch of big people. But it is a big deal to a bunch of little people. And this is from the ‑‑ oh, yes. I believe she sent a big check. Anyhow, Larry. This is from the Portsfield and Port Mansfield Chamber of Commerce. That they are concerned about the seatrout.

MR. MCKINNEY: And should be.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: And I think there is more than 900 letters there. Something like that.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER MCKINNEY: I'll put this into the record.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Might I say, it is a very big deal to a bunch of little people who make their living down there in that area 12 months out of the year, taking care of our fishing community, our saltwater fishing community.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I have spoken with several of them. It is true. Thanks.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: We are all in this for the long term now, not just the short term. They are in my vision.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Right. Protect the resource.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski with Inland Fisheries Division. And today, I want to go over the freshwater fishing proposals that we wish to get your approval to take to public hearings.

First is on Lake Texoma. The current regulation there, we have a straight bass daily bag limit of ten, and there is a no minimum length limit, but we do only allow two fish over 20 inches there. The possession limit is also ten. This is all our possession limits, our twice the statewide daily bag, which is five. Not the Texoma daily bag.

There was some situations there where some anglers were confused by that limit. Since it is sort of anomaly to the rest of the state. And also, Oklahoma has a little bit different possession limits. They have some different definition of final destination. So theirs were different also.

What we are proposing to do there is to change the possession limit for striped bass. It would be 20, which would be twice the Texoma daily bag limit. We don't believe that would have any minimal or no biological impact. There would still be some differences with Oklahoma, due to some structural differences. But we do think it would help clear up some of the confusion there, among both the anglers and law enforcement staffs for both states. We did discuss this with the Oklahoma Fisheries officials and law enforcement officials, and we have agreed upon this proposal.

Next, I would like to discuss the legalization of bowfishing for catfish. If you recall, last year, when we implemented that, we implemented that with a sort of a one-year time frame on it. It would expire at the end of August of the current license year. At that time when we discussed that, the Commission directed staff to try and collect some information on this activity. A couple of things that we were primarily doing. The game wardens were gaining information on when they saw bow anglers over the course of the summer, into the fall. And we also started a survey of bow anglers to get some information on their activities. One of the things that we did find, that a lot of the activity is concentrated in the spring and the summer.

In fact, most of the game warden contacts were in July of the year. And all that was prior to the change, September 1. So we really haven't had much of an opportunity to evaluate what is happening after the regulation change. Because of that, we would like to extend the change for another year and continue to monitor that activity and to see if we can obtain any more information on that.

Also, we would like to mention that in November, we did make ‑‑ we did discuss with you some changes for the largemouth bass regulations. Some 60-inch maximums, after we discussed those with staff, and continue to look to at those, we decided not to pursue any of those at this time. Staff will continue to look at and monitor those populations to see if we could do any regulatory changes that would help improve the quality on those reservoirs. That is all the proposals we have. I would be happy to answer any questions if you have any.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks again. Any questions? (No response.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Thank you. Mr. Mike Berger.

MR. BERGER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I am Mike Berger, the Director of the Wildlife Division. And I am here today to bring forward some proposals for changes to the wildlife part of the statewide proclamation.

The first item to consider today is the modification of the spring Rio Grande turkey-hunting season, that would offer better hunting opportunity to hunters. As you can see on the slides, the season now runs from the first, from the Saturday closest to April the 1st and runs for 44 days. And this map depicts what that season is now. Two years ago, we simplified this season by merging the North zone and the South zone into a single zone, and increase the season length by a week. In the process of monitoring and evaluating this new season, we have concluded that while the 44-day season length is fine, the hunting opportunity could be optimized by reinstituting the zones, the north and south zones that would allow the South Texas zone to open earlier and the North Texas season to run later.

So what our proposed zone is is an earlier opening South Zone, beginning on the Saturday closed to March 18th and run for 44 consecutive days. This new zone would also include three counties in the southeast portion of that, that previously were the month of April only, and limited to one gobbler. And we have determined that there is a turkey population sufficient to sustain a longer season and a bigger bag limit. The bag limit in the South Zone would remain at four turkeys, gobblers only. The new North Zone would open later, on the Saturday closest to April 7th. And it also would run for 44 days. The bag limit in the North Zone would be four turkeys, gobblers only. This idea was discussed with the Game Bird Advisory Committee, and they are all supportive of this proposal.

The next item is some mule deer housekeeping. You will recall that two years ago, we adopted rules to eliminate double tagging. Hunters are no longer required to use a tag off their hunting license, if they are also utilizing one of the many permits that we offer, such as MLDBs, LAMPs, special drawn hunt permits on WMAs, et cetera. When we proposed those rules, we inadvertently failed to include the general antlerless mule deer permits. So this proposal would eliminate double tagging of antlerless mule deer, taken under the authority of the general antlerless mule deer permits.

Also, when we implemented the mule deer MLD program, almost two years ago, we inadvertently failed to make provision for the archery mule deer season portion. So we would propose to make the MLD permits for mule deer valid also for the archery season with archery equipment only. Concerning archery deer in our continuing dialogue with the archery hunting community, they have expressed a wish for additional hunting opportunity in what is now, a five-day closed period between the archery season and the general season. As you can see on the slide, the current archery season runs from the Saturday closest to September 30 for 30 consecutive days. So the proposal would change that to add five days. Reading it would extend from the Saturday closest to September 30 for 35 consecutive days. And we believe this is a legitimate request and is not a resource issue.

Regarding lesser prairie chicken, currently we have a few places where prairie chickens are hunted, and we require for those cooperators five habitat practices, and a harvest recommendation not to exceed 5 percent of the population. The proposed change would give our field staff more flexibility to enroll additional landowners in the Managed Land and Lesser Prairie Chicken Program. Most landowners interested in the program are conducting some lesser prairie chicken-friendly practices on their properties. And therefore, the requirement of five practices is thought to be a little too restrictive and could be reduced to three. And also, because of the leking behavior of lesser prairie chicken and their large home ranges they use habitat components that often extend to several land ownerships. For example, the nesting and feeding areas may be on one property, while the leker, the booming ground, may be on a nearby property of another landowner. So variability in landownership sizes can make issuing permits challenging, especially when the birds depend on a small portion of their range for leks when we count them. So increasing the harvest recommendation to not exceed 10 percent, would allow our biologists greater flexibility in issuing the permits for those few landowners who are allowing prairie chicken hunting. Again, this was discussed with the Game Bird Advisory Committee and all but one member were supportive of this proposal.

The next item has to do with javelina. We have been petitioned by a private landowner to allow hunting opportunity on javelinas in South Texas by increasing the bag limit, which is now at two animals per year. As you know, our aerial survey data from 1994 and 2004 indicate a generally declining population across the whole of South Texas. These surveys were conducted in conjunction with our aerial deer surveys, where we count deer and we were also counting javelinas at the same time. This being said, we know, staff knows there are some areas where javelina populations are stable, and are increasing. And you won't be surprised to learn that these are the areas that have good habitat where it is being managed. Where there is an abundance of succulent vegetation and that habitat is well managed.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Excuse me. Could I make a comment?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Sure.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Have you given any thought to perhaps incorporating as part of the global approach to managing lands, to maybe incorporate javelina to where, in instances where there is an overabundance of javelina ‑‑ just like we managed the deer, we could manage the javelina. You are running the survey anyway, and you are seeing them, your biologist is looking at the them, so he can say well you know, in your case, you don't have any, or you have too many.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Right. In some areas, we have high densities.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. Just a thought.

MR. BERGER: We do have a number of properties, and has indicated our general surveys indicate that on a broad cross-section of South Texas the population is variable from area to area. And on those areas, without increasing the bag limit everywhere, I think it would be possible to work on a property-by-property basis where we have a wildlife management plan in place mirroring our Managed Land Deer program. You have a management plan in place. You do population surveys. Collect harvest data, and turn those in. And our staff could make our biologists working with those landowners under a wildlife management plan, could make a harvest recommendation on those properties.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: To where we take a more global approach to managing your game, based on the environment as compared to be habitat versus species specific. Yes.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: What do we do to move that forward, Mike?

MR. BERGER: If that is your wish, we could put together a proposal that would incorporate those things that we talked about. So it would operate under a wildlife management plan and the requirements would be population surveys, keeping harvest records, maybe doing some habitat practices that most landowners who would have already have this are probably already doing for the whitetail deer anyway. But that kind of information would help us to better understand the population dynamics of these critters across South Texas. So if that is your wish, we could put that out for public comment in that format.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. I would love to.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Staff can work on that, and get back to us.

MR. BERGER: Okay. The next thing is a little cleanup here. We want to modify the current regulations on tagging and wildlife resource documents for deer or turkey that are processed at a cold storage or processing facility that is exempt from record book requirements. We want to require that a tag or a wildlife resource document accompany that game until it reaches a person's home or a cold storage or process facility that is required to maintain a record book. Right now, if you process that deer beyond quarters, in the field, you are not required to have a tag with it to transport. This would allow law enforcement to ensure that it was a legally taken deer and just require that person to keep the tag with that meat until they reach their residence or a cold storage facility with the record.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: This is a rule, particularly with MLDPs, isn't it.

MR. BERGER: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Because currently, you can harvest that animal and travel 15 miles or 20 miles on a public road before you get to a destination or storage processing that you have nominated as the ‑‑

MR. BERGER: Well, on MLDs as you know, when you are traveling directly from where you harvested the animal to where the permits are kept, any headquarters or facility ‑‑

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It is an untagged animal.

MR. BERGER: It is an untagged animal. But that is allowed. Okay. The next one has to do with taxidermy tagging requirements. And currently, the taxidermist is required to document the specimens that are required to maintain the documentation for a two-year period after the taxidermy work is complete. And staff is recommending that taxidermists maintain the documentation for two years after the specimens have been returned to the customer or sold to recover the cost of taxidermy. So that somebody may not come and pick up their animal or pick it up for a longer period of time. And the two-year period is the statute of limitations. So this would just require that taxidermists who keep those records for two years after the animal is picked up or sold instead of two years from when the work is complete. And that concludes our recommendations. And I will be happy to any other questions you have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Mike. Any other questions? Any other discussion on this item?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. If there are no further questions or discussion, I will authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Does that include the stuff about the javelinas?

MR. BERGER: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, great. Okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Committee Item 3, status of the non-game permit program. Mr. Matt Wagner.

MR. WAGNER: Good afternoon, Chairman and Commission. My name is Matt Wagner. I am program director for Wildlife Diversity. The purpose of my briefing is to bring you up to date on what we know about the increasing demand for the collection and trade of non-game wildlife.

In 1999, we established two non-game permits. The first is a non-game permit, or formally known as a collector permit, required to possess more than 25 specimens or to sell. We have both a resident and a non-resident permit. We also have a dealers permit, required to both buy and then resell non-game, both the resident and a non-resident permit. Of these two permits, only the dealers are required to report to us on their annual activities. The collectors or the non-game permittees are required to keep a daily log. There are 42 tax of non-game that are affected by this permit system. Five frogs and toads, the salamander, 20 turtles, which really make up the bulk of the activity that we see today. Four lizards, ten snakes and then two mammals.

Now these are figures that were reported to us by dealers over the last three years. If you pay attention to the top three turtles, these are commonly known as money turtles. These make up either the bulk of the volume of turtles that are collected and sold, or they render a lot of meat from the sides of the turtles. So if you look, you can see that wild, caught by dealer. There is 50 dealers reporting to us. And nearly 26,000 red-eared sliders being caught out of the wild. But then about 178 plus thousand that were acquired. Either purchased from collectors or acquired, even in some cases, from other states. So if you pay attention then, the map turtles, only three that were reported wild caught, but nearly 28,000 purchased from 15 dealers. And you can see the counties as well, the number of counties that were reported to us. These are where these turtles were caught out of the wild. And in box turtles, and we have some concern about box turtles in terms of their limited numbers. Twenty-four or 29 dealers reported to us, from 24 counties collected from.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Let me ask a question.

MR. WAGNER: Yes.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Either I don't understand this, or those map turtles are highly prolific. How did you start with three and get to 27,000.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. WAGNER: Well, what we have here ‑‑ let me explain a little bit. The left hand column is wild caught by dealer. And then ‑‑

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Where do these dealers get the 27,000?

MR. WAGNER: They are purchasing them from others that are collecting.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Out of state?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Out of state.

MR. WAGNER: There are some portion out of state, but most of these numbers are from wild, caught in Texas.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: So somebody is lying about the wild caught by dealer.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: They are not a licensed ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: They are not a licensed dealer.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: All the people catching them are not licensed.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: So you have got some people not licensed that are catching them.

MR. WAGNER: There were only three that were reported by dealers themselves that collected. The nearly 28,000 were purchased by others that were ‑‑ from others that were permitted. The collectors.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Are we not catching them because they are just not here in the state, or are they here, and they are just not recording? In other words, I can see where only three are being caught because they are not very prolific.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. WAGNER: Again, keep in mind, this is only reported.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I understand that but what I am saying is, is the map turtle prolific in this state?

MR. WAGNER: There are four different types. And they are confined, pretty much to particular watersheds. So they wouldn't be necessarily as common as some of these others. But if they are not catching them, they are working with others that are. They are not catching them themselves. You know, local individuals that have a better knowledge of the area, that would be permitted as collectors, and then would sell to a dealer.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Are there regulations on catching turtles? I mean, if I want to catch map turtles, can I catch as many as I want?

MR. WAGNER: As long as you are permitted, yes. There are no restrictions on the numbers at this time.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: What do you mean, permitted? I'm am not a dealer, but I am not a dealer. I mean, I am just out there catching them.

MR. WAGNER: If you possessed more than 25 and you were selling any, you would be required to have a non-game permit.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: That would be a non-game collector. I get a $18 license, and I can catch all the map turtles I want. Thousands of them, if I want. Theoretically. Okay. That answered my question. And I can sell them to a dealer.

MR. WAGNER: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I got you. Okay.

MR. WAGNER: In fact, you must sell them to a dealer.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Because I can't sell them myself. Explain that.

MR. WAGNER: Well, the way the permit is written, if you are a collector, and you are going to sell, you need to sell to a dealer.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

MR. WAGNER: And I can get David Sinclair to confirm that.

MR. COOK: That is okay.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, okay.

MR. WAGNER: Now there are other animals involved. We have a couple of lizards. The one on top is a round-tailed horned lizard. This is not the Texas horned lizard. Not the one that is threatened, it is protected. But for example, the marble whiptail lizard, one county, 1,400 specimens coming from one county over a three-year period by those that are permitted as dealers. Now Western diamondback rattlesnake make up a large number. Most of these, or a lot of them, I should say, are part of the Rattlesnake Roundup, a business.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: How many? I was wondering how many of them.

MR. WAGNER: Well, some work that has been done in New Mexico, and I would like to identify Dr. Lee Fitzgerald with us from Texas A&M has done some work on this. And his figures indicate that 15 to 20 percent of all the diamondback rattlesnakes collected, now this is New Mexico, ended up in a roundup. So it was a relatively small number. We don't know, we are not sure in Texas what that figure would be. A lot of these end up either as meat or skins and novelty items.

146 bullfrogs, you see there. But over 82,000 that were purchased. And even a trade in black-tailed prairie dogs. Now this is illegal now, I believe, because of some disease issues. But there is some collecting that is still going on. We want to follow up on that. Now over the last few months, we have had various meetings with the user groups, including seven herpetological societies. We had a dealer meeting here in Austin. We had about 300 participants. As you can imagine, we had a wide range of interests, from those that are strictly in it from the commercial side to those that want to have a pet, and the scientific community as well. But everyone agrees that sustainability is the goal. But we lack the population data to properly manage all of these things. So we have one side of the equation, and that is what we know about the harvest.

So what we know is that our annual reporting is being improved. We have a growing demand for unique pets and turtle meat in particular. We believe we have increased pressure from out of state collectors, for example, box turtles have been prohibited from collection in Louisiana and Oklahoma and Arkansas, I understand, but not New Mexico. But there could be an increased pressure from out of state collectors. And there has been concern about our turtles, box turtles, in particular diamondback terrapin, which was mentioned in the statewide, map turtles, and possibly some other freshwater turtles. But we noted there is at least a couple of dozen species, mostly snakes and turtles that are also being commercially collected we have no information on. They are not required to ‑‑ a permit is not required to collect and sell them. So we are looking at that.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: What are those?

MR. WAGNER: Well, mostly snakes. There are a number of venomous snakes now that are popular as pets. The Trans-Pecos copperhead, I mean, we have a list of them. One of our wardens in Harris County, John Rao has been interested in this, and has been going around to various pet stores and keeping records for us. So we have that list and we can certainly provide it to you.

So the considerations, as we move forward, would be first enforce the current rules that we have, including the reporting; to consider a ban on the commercial collection of box turtles, map turtles and diamondback terrapin. And this is really due to their unique life history, including a slow reproductive rate, and restricted range in some cases. Like map turtles and diamondback terrapin.

We also want to consider including additional species on the list, requiring the non-game permit. And then to possibly convert the entire list to a whitelist, whereby everything that was not on that list would be prohibited from collection. We have also experimented or explored the idea of a breeders' permit. A lot of individuals are collecting and then breeding these animals in captivity. And it could possibly be that instead of having a dealer permit, we could move to a turtle breeder permit for example. That is something that we need to look into. And then lastly, we think that maybe 25 might be a little high for people to possess these as pets. So we may consider lowering that possession limit. So those are the things that we are considering as we move forward. And in April, we hope to bring you some specific proposals for you to deliberate on.

MR. COOK: Gentlemen, I would just like to add, we ‑‑ just a very few years ago, we basically had no information. We finally got a permit for collectors and dealers. We have been collecting information. It is difficult. The guys have done a great job of trying to work with that information. I will tell you that just kind of reflecting back, that the interest in these species is ten times higher than it was five years ago. The utilization of some of these species for meat in the Orient and in Asia is a hundred times what it was five years ago. We have very liberal rules, as opposed to most states. So we are feeling some of the pressure that is being shifted from other states to Texas. You know, many of these species are fine. Many of these species have the added protection of their habitat, their home range being on private land, where access is controlled and managed. And yet many of these species are associated with public waterways and those kind of things that allow immediate access, and highways. Highway right-of-ways which you are going to hear some more about that kind of discussion. So I appreciate you. We wanted to brief you.

I asked the guys here, a few months ago. I said, look. We are not in an alarm situation. We are not in a crisis situation, we don't think. But we would like to smooth this out some. We would like to tighten this up some. We would like to get better information. And we would like to be sure that we can say to you and to the people of Texas who write us by that stack that Commissioner Parker pulled out of his box a while ago. It is small compared to the feedback that we are getting about concerns about some of these species. So hopefully, we will be back to you. And any guidance that you have, any suggestions, your kind of your feeling about this, we would appreciate that. That is why we are here today.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Parker.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Could you invite Dr. Fitzgerald?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes. Lee, could you come up, please?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Go ahead. Announce yourself.

MR. FITZGERALD: My name is Lee Fitzgerald. I am an associate professor in the Department of Wildlife and Fishery Sciences at Texas A&M. I am a herpetologist.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I would like for you to just give us maybe your personal and corporate of your colleagues views about what we are discussing here today. Where we are, where it is headed, in your opinion.

MR. FITZGERALD: Okay. There is a growing consensus in the scientific community, especially among experts that understand a lot about reptiles and amphibians that the worldwide demand for reptiles and amphibians for pets and for meat has been increasing. And it seems like there is no end in sight as to how much it is going to increase. It is really well known without argument among experts that there is a worldwide crisis in turtles. In Southeast Asia, for example, there are basically no turtles, and one turtle is worth, depending on the species can be worth as much as one year's salary to a person living in the countryside. This has created a large sucking sound from places that have loose regulations. And these trades in wildlife that are unregulated, that we call clandestine trades are extremely difficult to understand, because until you start monitoring them, it is impossible to get hard information that we can make scientifically defensible arguments with. And so that is what Dr. Wagner's problem is, and why some of the data seem a little bit vague, is because it is so hard to get data without a good monitoring system in place.

Now the reason that this is of concern is because we talk about turtles in Texas being harvested. Well, we are talking about 22 or so species. And those species collectively are at the extreme end of a natural history that makes it very difficult for them to sustain harvest in the wild. Many of our native species of turtles take more than ten years to reach sexual maturity and when they start reproducing, of course, most of their offspring die. They have a high juvenile mortality rate. And on top of that, it is very easy to go to an area and fish out all the turtles in a pond or in the reach of a stream. So sustainability is the goal, but wildlife management for species that have the biology like turtles do, is going to require some careful management. Unregulated exploitation and turtles are just not compatible. They can't take it.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Tell them about the regulations in Texas of these species. What do you think personally about the regulations in Texas?

MR. FITZGERALD: I think it is a real good start. We were talking earlier today. You know, in my opinion, I think these are really positive steps and good steps. You know, nobody expects to start out flying a 747 without learning on a Cessna. This is a very good step. You know, there is species like box turtles that lay three or four eggs maybe every other year or every third year. This is a no-brainer. You know, box turtles are going to be in trouble if we don't protect them. And lots and lots of people care about turtles. People love turtles. It is important to the public of Texas. In terms of all these other myriad species of lizards and snakes and all that, we need to be collecting information on those, so that we can benefit in the future with them, so we can make more informed decisions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Montgomery, do you have a question?

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Yes. I appreciate having the presentation and the numbers I read, of course, to me, are pretty alarming. The mortality is enough to know what you are saying makes a lot of sense. Having been to China and walked through public markets, it is staggering to see the sales of reptiles in Chinese markets along. You can see where a lot of this is going. My request would be two. One, when you come back, if we could put it in the context of goals, since we are supposed to set policy, let's set some policy. And two, I think we need to be realistic and recognize there is a market here, and we are either going to make it a legal market we manage or a black market that is very hard to police.

I think we ought to think about regulatory tools to create a legal market we can manage. And I think the monitoring issue, to have a goal of sustainability is a great goal. But it's a huge question of how in the world you monitor and analyze that. And I think without the monitoring and analysis, we are going to get caught in a how do you really know the answer debate. And when we go to Sweetwater and talked about the Roundup, how are we going to say, you are taking too many snakes out? There in the counties, but I think that is coming, too. To me, those things all need to be part of the package that we will deal with here. But I think it is a great thing to be pursuing.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Very good. Any other questions.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: My only other comment would an enforcement issue. And I can see the burden would be on the game wardens. It seems to me that if it is a clandestine type market, either we legalize it and have it somehow surface, and then, I hate to even say this. We almost need people within your department that are kind of devoted on this. It seems to me that it is a little monster that is out there. And that is going to be a game warden issue, I would assume.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I don't know whether this is at all applicable, but in theory, something like an IFQ, creates a property right, and gives an incentive for the people who hold the permits to protect it and to report the guys who are stealing. And not just to exploit, because they have got a permit, which is what we have right now, actually.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER PARKER: When you make the offense, the payment for the offense high enough right to start, you can set some examples.

MR. WAGNER: And really, when you talk to these large volume dealers, they want to work with us. And so do the large roundups. I mean, there is all kinds of issues there, but that is a whole separate issue. But we are talking to them, and they are fully engaged as we move forward.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: It is very much in their interest we need to create a system that franchises them but gives them the incentive to manage sustainably.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Thank you, Dr. Fitzgerald.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Committee Item 4, scientific breeder permit regulations. Mr. Clayton Wolf.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. WOLF: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, for the record, my name is Clayton Wolf. I am the Big Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division. This afternoon, I have just two brief items here. They are basically housekeeping measures about our scientific breeder rules. You may recall that less than a year ago, we proposed and this Commission adopted some pretty sweeping changes to our scientific breeder regulations. We did a reorganization and complete re-write. And since that time, we have discovered a couple of errors.

And these two proposals are simply to rectify those two errors. The first one is very simple. Section 65.611 requires that a person having purchased permit for deer transaction, you may recall that we actually recommended and did adopt the abolishment of purchase permits in lieu of transfer permits. So no such permit exists. So we would simply propose to strike the word "purchase." And then a permit valid for that specific transaction would be adequate in this section. The second one is just a little bit more complicated. The current rule requires that if someone wants to transfer deer for temporary purposes to someone else, they can do that for breeding or nursing purposes, but the rule currently restricts that to scientific breeders only. This was an oversight on our part, because previously, we have allowed non-scientific breeders to take into possession fawns for nursing purposes. It was not our intent to change that. It was simply an error on our part. So we would propose the proposed remedy is that if a breeder wants to transfer legally possessed deer, they could transfer them to or from scientific breeders for breeding purposes or to or from another person on a temporary basis for nursing purposes. Number 2, the item number 2 basically would not be restricted simply to scientific breeders. We had seven comment on this proposal. Four in support and three in opposition. And that concludes my presentation. I will be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Anything substantive in the opposition?

MR. WOLF: No. Of course, the support came from Texas Deer Asssociation and Breeders. The opposition actually wasn't specific to these rules. It was more a philosophical opposition to holding deer in captivity.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other discussion by the Commissioner?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: If there are no further questions or discussion, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you.

(Pause.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Committee Item No. 5, Restricted Species List and Definitions. Harmful or Potentially Harmful Exotic Fish, Shellfish and Aquatic Plant Rules. Mr. Joedy Gray. Please make a presentation.

MS. BRIGHT: I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. And the reason I am here, is, there is a legal issue that calls this to come back to you. And I just wanted to let you know where we were on that. These rules were actually initially set for adoption in August. And one of the requirements under the Government Code, whenever we adopt a rule, in the proposed rulemaking, we have to include information about the impact of that rule on small business. When we initially proposed those rules, we did not include that, because we did not believe there was any impact on a small business. In August, a gentleman showed up to testify, and he said that his small business was going to be impacted by these rules. As a result, what we did was we separated out those sections that would have the small business impact, and we have re-proposed those to address that small business impact. The remainder of the rules have been adopted. And that is why we are here today.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

MR. GRAY: Chairman and Committee members, my name is Joedy Gray with the Inland Fisheries Division. At the August 24th, 2006, Commission meeting, the Commission was asked to adopt proposed amendments to the harmful or potentially harmful exotic fish, shellfish and aquatic plant rules, which included adding round gobies, two Chinese carp, Chinese perches, and non-native Temperate Basses to the prohibited fish list. Prohibiting all Southern Hemisphere crayfish and all species of giant rams-horn and applesnails except one that is prevalent in the pet trade. And adding eight species of plants to the prohibited plant list. Other reclassifications and rule clarifications were also included. As a result of the comments concerning the Australian redclaw crayfish, included in the proposed amendments were rules to allow the possession, propogation, sale and transport of live Australian redclaw crayfish, provided applicants obtained an exotic species permit from the Department. Although we received no comment on the re-proposed rules, staff has sent correspondence with an Australian redclaw producer who may wish to comment at tomorrow's meeting. And I will be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions or discussion?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. If there no further questions or discussion, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you, Joedy. This Committee has completed its business.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Mr. Cook, is there any other business to come before us?

MR. COOK: No, sir. I don't think so. We have got a 6:30 tonight at Bullock with Lydia. We look forward to that. Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I want to thank staff for their excellent presentations. This meeting is adjourned.

(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Regulations Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: January 24, 2007

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 57, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

2/01/07

(Transcriber) (Date)
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731


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