AUSTIN – Conservation groups are asking the tens of thousands of people who boat in Texas coastal waters every year to become part of the solution to conserve diminishing habitats. Habitat loss and degradation has been documented for years as a problem in coastal bays. The call for conservation comes as people look for a safe outdoor activity during the ongoing pandemic, when choosing to fish or boat in the bays is a popular option.
Compared to last year, the total Texas resident fishing license sales are 27.2% higher, as of the end of June. This increased activity on the Gulf coast means protecting coastal resources has never been more vital. In response to this, a relatively new organization focusing on angler etiquette and behavior called Flatsworthy has emerged on the Texas coast. The group’s three tenets are: Respect Fellow Anglers, Respect the Resource and Respect the Law. Flatsworthy and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) are therefore urging anglers to avoid damaging marshes and seagrass beds while boating.
Erosion and severe weather degrade these areas the most, but humans do play a role. As a non-profit made up of guides, boaters and anglers, Flatsworthy wants to slow the tide on coastal habitat degradation, and also encourage safe, legal and more civil behavior on the water. By teaching anglers that their actions matter and have a lasting effect on the resource, hopefully bad boating habits can be eliminated.
When navigating the flats, anglers should always Lift, Drift, Pole and Troll their boats to avoid damaging seagrass. Since 2013 it has been illegal to uproot seagrass in Texas with over 50 warnings and citations being given to boaters by Texas Game Wardens. Motorized boats aren’t the only problem though. Air boats should also use caution when out on the water and avoid running over grass islands and wet ground. When cutting through these habitats it destroys vegetation and speeds up the marshes’ erosion process.
During the pandemic, TPWD is also urging people to practice responsible recreation when outdoors. That includes recreating close to home, maintaining physical distance, and avoiding gathering in groups larger than 10. Please follow best practices as well as your local and state guidelines to help stop the spread of the virus.