No one could have foreseen back in 1977, when just 14 concerned fishermen gathered in a local Texas tackle shop and formed the Gulf Coast Conservation Association where their passion would lead. But today, the nationwide Coastal Conservation Association is doing marvelous things from coast to coast.
December always generates acts of year-end recognition and giving to organizations deserving of support. Without question, the CCA is an organization that gets things done and is worthy of support from marine dealers and the nation’s anglers.
Those 14 anglers in the tackle shop were moved to action by the drastic commercial overfishing along the Texas coast that had decimated redfish and speckled trout populations. They’re goal was to turn the tide for conservation. And they did.
Four years later, gillnets along the Texas coast were outlawed. Moreover, both red drum and speckled trout were declared game fish. This successful “Save the Redfish” campaign grabbed the attention of anglers all around the Gulf of Mexico and by 1985 CCA chapters had formed all along the Gulf Coast. By the early ‘90s, the South and Mid-Atlantic regions had CCA chapters. In 2007, Washington and Oregon chapters were formed and in 2015, the CCA California chapter was created.
The fish are different, but the challenges facing them are often the same on all coasts — destructive commercial gear, degraded habitat and misguided management concepts.
CCA has proven that anglers are the best stewards of the marine environment while it’s also a strong advocate for access to the resources. Here are just a few samples of CCA actions being taken in various state chapters:
CCA South Carolina undertook a 3-year effort to complete 3 new deep-water reefs off the Palmetto state’s coast. CCA’s Topwater Action Campaign recently created the CCA/Sea Hunt Reef, with the former 100-foot tug Grace McAllister being deployed 16 miles off the coast. In the past 10 years, CCA SC and its partners have invested an estimated $1 million in projects including artificial reefs, equipment donations and scientific research.
CCA Florida has spearheaded an East Coast Redfish Restocking Initiative. Members knew the redfish population had declined in recent years, so the CCA began working with the Duke Energy Mariculture Center that had previously released 4.1 million fish and crustaceans on Florida’s west coast, including over 34,000 red tide recovery redfish in southwest Florida in 2019. Now expanding efforts on the east coast, the next phase of the initiative includes the raising and releasing over 100,000 juvenile redfish.
Out west, members of the CCA California San Diego Chapter recently partnered with Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute to release more than 2,300 juvenile halibut into Mission Bay. The juvenile fish were all offspring of broodstock — breeders that produce eggs that are cultured into juvenile fish to be released — trips held back in December of 2018 when CCA members spent two days pulling in 14 legal sized halibut for the project.
Finally, where it all began, another of the most popular fish — the southern flounder — on the Texas coast continues to struggle and additional measures are being taken to prevent additional declines. Specifically, fisheries managers have faced difficult decisions on how to properly manage a mixed commercial and recreational southern flounder fishery that continually struggles to maintain status quo.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has acted in the past to increase the relative abundance of southern flounder and continues to examine management options, including reductions in bag limits, boat limits, seasonal closures, increases in slot size and gear restrictions to increase flounder abundance.
CCA Texas members hold that all options should be on the table and it is time to answer the tough questions many have had for decades: Why allow a commercial fishery for a species at the lowest end of its geographical range?
Meanwhile, CCA has donated over $1 million to support flounder research and stock enhancement, and $740,000 to the University of Texas Marine Science Institute for facilities and equipment to support larvae research efforts.
In the interest of transparency, I am a member of the Coastal Conservation Association, because it gets things done.
Click here for more information or to join CCA.