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TPWD News Release — March 26, 2009

Changes in Flounder Regs to go into Effect Sept. 1, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners today approved a reduction in the recreational and commercial bag limits for southern flounder and set a reduced bag limit for the month of November with take that month limited to hook and line.

The commission also approved several changes related to federal consistency issues for sharks and other species and a paddle craft licensing and training program. Scoping and public comment on these issues has been ongoing since the fall of 2008, with more than 10,000 comments received by the department.

Flounder — The new regulations adopted by the TPW commission today are an attempt to reverse a long-term downward trend in the abundance of southern flounder. TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division data shows that the relative abundance of flounder has fallen by about 50 percent since the early 1980s. The new regulation reduces the recreational bag limit from 10 to 5 fish, and the commercial bag limit from 60 to 30 fish. Hook and line anglers will be permitted a 2 flounder daily bag limit during the month of November, with take by all other gear prohibited.

Modeling suggests that the new regulations will result in an increase of spawning stock biomass of slightly more than 80 percent over six years, with the majority of that recovery taking place in the first several years.

Public comments on the flounder regulations ran about 95 percent in favor of bag reductions and 90 percent against a November closure. TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division Science and Policy Director Robin Riechers noted that many persons opposing the November closure said they wanted a longer closure that applied only to the gig fishery including the months of October through December.

 Anglers all along the Texas Gulf coast reported a rebound in flounder numbers in 2007 and 2008, also reflected in TPWD sampling, but even that short-term increase in relative abundance places numbers near the bottom of the long-term trend.

"We’ll look at our data every year and come back to you either to talk about the success we’ve had or further actions we need to take," Riechers told commissioners.

Previous actions specifically impacting the flounder fishery have included establishing a 60 fish bag limit for the commercial fishery, a 10 fish bag limit and 20 fish possession limit and the establishment of the 14" minimum size limit in 1996. In 1999 the Texas Legislature established a limited entry program for finfish licenses which includes license holders who predominantly fish for either flounder or black drum. In 2006 the Commission approved a change in the regulations that made the possession limit equal to the bag limit of 10 for recreational anglers .

Federal Consistency - The TPW Commission approved changes to regulations for several species managed jointly with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to become more consistent in terms of bag and size limits.

Sharks — Specifically, this item changes the minimum length limit for those species allowed from 24 inches total length (TL) to 64 inches TL, except for Atlantic sharpnose, blacktip, and bonnethead sharks which will retain the current 24 inch TL minimum length limit. For the allowable shark species the bag limit will remain one fish per person per day and a two fish possession limit. In addition a prohibited list (zero bag limit) will be established for the following shark species:

Other Species — The regulation changes include species that have been found to be in an overfished condition or undergoing overfishing. The changes include: increasing the minimum size limit for greater amberjack from 32 inches to 34 inches TL, and establishing minimum size limits of 16 inches total length for gray triggerfish and 22 inches total length for gag. The bag limit for gray triggerfish would be 20 per person and for gag grouper it would be set at 2 per person with the possession limits being twice the daily bag limit.

Paddle Craft Licensing — TPW Commissioners approved a change that would allow paddle craft operators to receive a saltwater guide license by demonstrating certification or proof of completion of a TPWD boater safety course and CPR/First Aid training, and completion of the American Canoe Association (ACA) Coastal Kayak Day Trip Leading Assessment or British Canoe Union (BCU) Four Star Leader Sea Kayak Certification.

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