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KEMP'S RIDLEY: UPDATE by Mina Williams and Venice Scheurich
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LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS TO UNDERMINE TPW ‘s AUTHORITY LEFT PENDING

TPW Authority Preserved on Fisheries Management (HB 937-Rep. Solis/   SB810-Sen. Lucio)

Two bills were introduced to undermine the ability of TPW to regulate and

protect the Gulf shrimp fishery. HB 937 would have prohibited TPW from

closing any part of the Texas coast to shrimping. SB 810 would have repealed

all shrimp fishery regulations adopted by TPW after July 1, 2000 and required

TPW to adopt regulations that were in effect on June 30, 2000 as emergency

rules for management of the shrimp fishery. Closures are one of the most

effective fisheries management tools for maintaining healthy populations of

shrimp, finfish, and other important marine organisms such as endangered sea

turtles. These bills would have tied the hands of TPW at a time when careful

management is essential to maintaining the long-term vitality of the fishery and

the industries that depend upon it.

Status: both bills were left pending in committee.

Source: Lone Star Sierra Website

SPRING 2001 STATUS OF TPW SHRIMPING REGULATIONS

Since we last updated the information concerning the TPW shrimp regulations, which passed in an abridged form in August 2000, opponents of these regulations and of the partial closure from PAIS to the Mexican Border have been working hard to have these rules rescinded. Representative Jim Solis (D-Harlingen) has introduced HB 937 and Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., (D-Brownsville) HB 810, which call for limiting TPW's authority and placing on hold all regulation changes until studies of impact on the economy and the industry in the affected areas are complete.

While it is not yet clear whether these two bills will garner sufficient support to pass, many consider them threatening to the fishery's health. Therefore, the bills are already eliciting editorial opinion and news reports.

Two follow:

On March 2, 2001, The Houston Chronicle expressed the following view in an editorial:

Shortsighted Shrimping bills threaten permanent consequences

State Rep. Jim Solis, D-Harlingen, in an effort to protect the livelihood of many of his constituents, has introduced a bill in the Texas House , HB 937, that would limit the authority of Texas Parks and Wildlife to close coastal waters to shrimping. In a similar vein, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownville, has filed Senate Bill 810 that would undo rules allowing Parks and Wildlife to protect the state's marine life and fisheries. Solis and Lucio, though well-meaning, ought to put short-term considerations and these ill-conceived bills aside.

Parks and Wildlife officials simply must be able to close parts of the Texas coast to manage the shrimp population, as well as endangered sea turtles and other marine life. Without this tool, the Gulf shrimp industry could collapse altogether due to overfishing. This would be a bigger, more permanent catastrophe for shrimpers than occasional, temporary coastal closures.

HB 937 would prohibit parks officials from closing coastal waters to fishing except when needed to protect public health, safety and welfare. This would interfere with the annual Gulf closure out 200 nautical miles from mid-May to mid-July, which allows shrimp to mature and increase in value.

SB 810 would repeal rules adopted by the Parks and Wildlife Commission to regulate shrimping along the Texas Gulf Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, and would require legislative approval of just about any proposed new coastal water management rules. Further, the bill would require the parks department to undertake an economic impact study of state and federal shrimping regulations and an analysis of the economic and biological health of the shrimping industry. But Parks and Wildlife already completed a comprehensive study that showed serious overfishing of Gulf shrimp. If this continues, the shrimping economy will collapse and that part of the Gulf ecosystem with it.

It is in shrimpers' best interest that this ultimately crippling legislation fail. And it is also in the interest of all Texas, who, after all, have as great a stake in the continued vitality of this state's fishing industry as the shrimpers.

On February 26, 2001, the Victoria Advocate ran the following AP report:

The Legislature could stop enforcing new state shrimping regulations unpopular with the industry with a bill proposed by a coastal senator, who is calling for more study and input. State Senator Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, submitted a bill last week that would place a moratorium on Texas Parks and Wildlife Department shrimp regulations that began taking effect July 1, 2000. The moratorium would last until a study of the economic and biological health of the industry is conducted, The Facts of Brazoria County reported Sunday.

New regulations forced shrimpers farther from shore during breeding periods for endangered sea turtles, and the fall bay shrimping season shrank by 15 days. Devices to reduce bycatch--animal sother than shrimp--were required for all trawls except those for bait shrimp and recreational purposes.

Turtle-excluder devices were required of all trawls in the Gulf of Mexico. The fees for licenses for commercial shrimp vessels and businesses increased by 50 percent.

From last Dec. 1 to July 15, the state also closed shrimping in the gulf from the Corpus Christi Fish Pass to the Mexico border in a zone extending three nautical miles from the beach. Another bill, by state Rep. Jim Solis, D-Harlingen, would scrap the ban. Critics of the tightened regulations, designed to prevent overfishing and replenish shrimp populations, say they are not backed by good data. Environmentalists generally supported the closures and additional gear requirements.  Parks and Wildlife also faces two lawsuits over the rules. 'I obviously hope that before the session is over that we could could work out a way that the regulations the board has passed remain in force and I feel confident that we can,' Andrew Sansom, director of Texas Parts and Wildlife. 'I'll be doing my best to work with the author.'

The department already is conducting a study similar to the one Lucio wants mandated. Lucio is calling for greater participation by the industry.

Last summer's rules changes have taken effect gradually, meaning shrimpers have yet to feel the brunt of the changes, officials said. 'As far as the feel, everybody is still taking a look at it,' said Wilma Anderson, executive director of the Texas Shrimp Association, which supports the bills. 'We feel they (the regulations) will have a large impact on the fishery. We never did see the need for it.'

These two comments express the concerns of people on both sides of the TPW regulations. The Coastal Bend Sierra Club supports TPW's point of view. Our Parks and Wildlife officials are impartial scientists who were charged with studying the health of the Texas Shrimp Fishery and putting in place regulations to protect it. Their original proposals--drafted only after an exhaustive 18-month study--were dramatically reduced last summer after TPW held a number of open meetings along the coast, hearing people on all sides of these issues express their concerns. TPW also convened a special ad hoc committee, composed of shrimpers and environmentalists, which met twice in Lake Jackson to study the issues. Finally, the TPW Commissioners' annual meeting, held in Austin last August, was open to all who wished to speak. The Commissioners finally voted unanimously to adopt the amended regulations. The Commissioners charged TPW to make the economic impact study which is currently underway, and also to appoint an expanded Shrimp Advisory Committee which will include citizens from outside the shrimping community as well as from the industry.

It is our view that TPW has extended the citizenry every opportunity to understand the reasons for the regulations. TPW, as our official state agency, must look ahead to the future health of the whole fishery, not just the shrimping industry. Regulations are never popular. TPW is to be commended for having the courage to make the hard decisions for the long-range good of the Texas Fishery. We applaud their work and encourage you to follow these bills and contact your legislators if public support becomes useful in defending TPW's actions and accomplishing the defeat of these legislative bills.

                                                                    - Mina Williams and Venice Scheurich

New TPW Regulations Will Help Protect Sea Turtles
September 7, 2000

Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners adopted on August 31 regulations which are intended to protect the Texas Shrimp Fishery and reduce the dangers to by-catch in the Gulf—especially to endangered sea turtles. Of special importance toward that end is the seasonal southern closure out to 5 nautical miles from CC Fish Pass to the border.

As you know, Sierra pushed hard for more stringent regulations, hoping to get a year-round closure out to nine nautical miles. When that possibility dissolved, a coalition of environmentalists pushed for the year-round 5 mile closure, and finally managed to get the 7 month seasonal version adopted by the officials.

The two-day meeting in Austin (August 30-31) was contentious, with shrimpers and environmentalist pressing hard for their agendas, and with experts from NMFS and Mexico testifying for the regulations. (TPW biologists had already deleted or liberalized their original proposals by more than 50% when the Commissioners began hearing testimony as a result of concessions made to shrimpers during the summer hearings.)

With the experts warning that growth over-fishing is already occurring in the Gulf, and that Texas is precariously close to recruitment fishing—that most serious threat to any fishery--the Commissioners unanimously, though reluctantly, adopted modest proactive steps. (To see a list of the regulations which they adopted, access the TPW web site and click on "Newsstand").

These modest regulations are a significant first step toward protecting the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley and other endangered or threatened sea turtles in our Gulf waters. This movement is positive. There is reason to believe that the Commissioners’ consciousness has been raised to the public’s concern for endangered species, since 96% of the several thousand communications TPW received regarding these regulations favored them. There is also reason to hope that future progress is possible toward recovery and stabilization of a secondary nesting site for the Kemp’s ridleys on the Padre Island National Seashore if environmentalists can keep endangered species in the forefront of the Commission’s concerns. Everyone knows that Texas has a long way to go to before becoming truly environmentally responsible. The Austin "victory" must be viewed in perspective: It is cause for celebration, but also for further vigilance and effort.

Representing national, state and local environmentalists were Teri Shore from California for the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Carole Allen, founder of HEART, Brian Sybert and Ken Kramer for the Lone Star Sierra Club, Pat Suter and Mina Williams for the Coastal Bend Sierra Club, and Pam Baker for Environmental Defense. Notably, one veteran Gulf shrimper—Jeff Noel from Rockport—supported TPW’s regulations because he sees the necessity of sacrificing short-term gain in order to save the shrimp fishery.

 

Commissioners' names, home addresses, and fax numbers:

Honorable Lee Marshall Bass, Chairman *
Parks and Wildlife Commission
201 Main Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
FAX-(817) 390-8408

Honorable Carole E. Dinkins, Vice-Chair
Parks and Wildlife Commission
1001 Fannin, Suite 2416
Houston, TX 77002-6760
FAX-(713) 615-5311

Honorable Richard W. (Dick) Heath, Member *
Parks and Wildlife Commission
2121 Midway Road
Carrollton, TX 75006
FAX- (972) 341-3098

Honorable Ernest Angelo, Jr., Member
Parks and Wildlife Commission
410 North Main
Midland, TX 79701
FAX- (915) 684-7691

Honorable John Avila, Jr., Member
Parks and Wildlife Commission
900 Summit Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76102
FAX- (817) 877-5507

Honorable Al Henry, Member
Parks and Wildlife Commission
P.O. Box 111157
Houston, TX 77293-0157
FAX- (713) 631-3959

Honorable Katharine Armstrong Idsal, Member
Parks and Wildlife Commission
4519 Westway Avenue
Dallas, TX 75205
FAX- (214) 522-2793

Honorable Nolan Ryan, Member *
Parks and Wildlife Commission
P.O. Box 670
Alvin, TX 77512
FAX- (281) 585-2238

Honorable Mark E. Watson, Member
Parks and Wildlife Commission
P.O. Box 6886
San Antonio, TX 78209
FAX- (210) 824-0166

Honorable Perry R. Bass, Chairman-Emeritus
Parks and Wildlife Commission

201 Main Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
FAX- (817) 338-2699

*Terms have expired, the Governor will make new appointments.


   February 11, 2000

KEMP'S RIDLEY PRESS RELEASE FROM AUSTIN

On February 9, the Lone Star Sierra Club, with a spokesperson from Environmental Defense, held a news conference in Austin to announce the organizations’ joint position regarding shrimping closures to protect sea turtles. To read the press release, go to www.sierraclub.org/chapters/tx/, and then click on "Press Releases." The one regarding sea turtle protection is dated 2/9/00.

You will see that the purpose of the press release is to urge TPWD, during its shrimp regulation review initiative, to extend its existing closure in order to help sea turtles—especially the critically endangered Kemp’s ridleys—to survive. Additionally, these extensions could provide biological benefits to the shrimp fishery and economic benefits to shrimp fishermen.

According to Ken Kramer, Lone Star Sierra Director, "Today, of course, was not the end, only the beginning of the public focus on this issue." It is up to all of us in the Coastal Bend Chapter to generate public support for the proposals in the press release.

                                                            - Mina Williams and Venice Scheurich

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THE PLIGHT OF THE KEMP’S RIDLEY
                                       SEA TURTLE

                                by Mina Williams and Venice Scheurich

As you probably know, like the Brown Pelican and the Whooping Crane, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle has had and is having a hard time surviving. Only now is the species making a modest recovery, and that with very little help from officials at the state or national levels, regardless of their claims. Mexican officials, clearly more far-sighted than Texas leaders, long ago mandated a marine reserve at Rancho Nuevo. In Texas, our governor—aspiring to be president—even today is unwilling to act against the interests of big business. [See the article in the November/December 1999 Sierra for a thoroughly chilling account of Governor Bush’s pathetic record as an ecologist.]

U. S. and Texas government officials could long ago have taken specific steps to ensure the survival of this endangered turtle. So far, to a shameful extent, they have lacked the will to do so. Though a few dedicated scientists are going to great lengths to do what they can, they have minimal help from people in positions of authority and influence. Officials held hostage by lobbyists whose enterprises cause great harm to the environment in general can hardly be expected to concern themselves with the survival and well-being of creatures as defenseless and "expendable" as sea turtles unless citizens exert pressure on them to do so.

Especially because of local interests and emphasis, be sure to click on www.nwrc.usgs.gov/world/content/plants4.html. There you will find an impressive, brief picture story of Padre Island National Seashore turtle biologist Donna Shaver with some of her staff and turtles.

Two outstanding, up-to-date sea turtle web pages are found at www.ridleyturtles.org/, and www.seaturtles.org/.  November/December political and scientific information can be found there.