Contact: Kent Keene, Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
Why It Matters: State fish and wildlife management agencies play an important role in conserving our nation’s public trust fish and wildlife resources for the benefit of all. For sportsmen and women, the original conservationists whose dedication to conservation led to the creation and funding of state agencies, it is important that we support efforts that are backed by the best available science to ensure that these resources, and our ability to enjoy them, are conserved for future generations. Critically, we must acknowledge situations, such as those currently present within the oyster reefs of Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bays in Texas, in which the ability of state agencies to open and close harvest seasons may be needed to ensure the long-term health of the ecosystem.
On Wednesday, March 23, CSF joined several mission partners in voicing support for a proposed moratorium on oyster harvest in Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bays in Texas. While instances of sportsmen and women supporting a harvest closure may sound counterintuitive, it is important to understand that this proposed closure was considered necessary by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the agency best informed and equipped to make science-based management decisions regarding our public trust fish and wildlife resources in Texas. As the original conservationists, it is our duty as sportsmen and women to work with the state agency and support their ability to open and close harvest seasons, as needed based on the best available science, to ensure the long-term conservation of these resources.
CSF has long championed the role of state fish and wildlife agencies while recognizing well-regulated fishing as a viable management tool. However, with our passion for conservation comes the realization that harvest closures may be necessary when a system has been shown to be at risk. Based on evidence collected by TPWD, this is exactly the case in these three bays that house critical oyster reefs in Texas. Fortunately, it is worth noting that collectively these three bays represent approximately 3% of Texas’ total coastal oyster habitat. For sportsmen and women interested in harvesting oysters, this means that plenty of opportunities remain available.
Recent environmental stressors such as tropical storms, prolonged freshwater inflows, and drought, combined with increased commercial fishing activities have resulted in declining health among the oyster populations within these reefs. This decline poses a significant risk for the entire estuarine ecosystem that depend upon these reefs, including economically and culturally important fisheries. In fact, Texas oyster reefs play a critical role in estuarine ecosystem health through vital services such as habitat for a variety of fish and invertebrate species, shoreline stabilization, water quality improvements, wave attenuation during storms, and overall coastal resiliency in the face of climate variability.
Recognizing the important role that these reefs play in their ecosystems, combined with the efforts of TPWD to ensure the long-term conservation of these ecosystems while minimizing the impact on sportsmen and women, CSF was proud to support this effort in the Lone Star State.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?