Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Commission Approves Changes to Texas Exotic Aquatic Species Regulations

The new regulations go into effect on Jan. 11, 2021

Todos los parues y sitios de interés administrados por el estado cerrán cerrados hasta nueva orden.
Frank Heinz

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved changes to regulations regarding harmful or potentially harmful fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants along with associated fee rules.

The changes, made on Tuesday, will not only impact permit holders, but there are relevant to the general public.

The new regulations go into effect on Jan. 11, 2021.

One of the regulations approved by the commission affects anglers who may catch exotic fish like tilapia and grass carp.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, under the new regulatory exception, anglers be allowed to use kill methods other than beheading or gutting the fish upon possession.

The fish must still be killed upon possession, but gill-cutting, placing the fish on ice, or killing them by any other means will also now be allowed, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said.

Approved another significant regulatory exception approved by the commission affects landowners.

Landowners who want to remove small quantities of prohibited exotic aquatic plants from along lake or riverfront shorelines, docks, or private ponds for the purposes of disposal will no longer be required to obtain an exotic species permit, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said.

The plants must be fully dried or placed in black garbage bags prior to disposal.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, any person removing prohibited exotic aquatic plants for hire will still require an exotic species permit.

Anyone wishing to remove the plants must still submit a nuisance aquatic vegetation treatment proposal to the Parks and Wildlife Department for approval even though a permit is no longer required for private landowners, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said submitting a proposal is necessary to ensure aquatic vegetation is managed in a way that protects aquatic habitats.

The regulation change also applies to landowners who need to remove small quantities of prohibited zebra mussels or applesnails from their shorelines, docks, or private water intakes for the purposes of disposal. Provided they are securely contained in black plastic bags prior to disposal,

The mussels or snails can be removed without a permit if they are securely contained in black plastic bags prior to disposal, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, aquaponics hobbyists or other non-commercial aquaculturists who want to keep tilapia in recirculating aquaculture systems that do not discharge water will be allowed to purchase and possess blue, Nile, Mozambique, and Wami tilapia without a permit.

The fish cannot be sold and must be purchased from a permitted Texas seller accompanied by an exotic species transport invoice, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said. The invoice is required to be retained for one year or as long as the fish are in possession, and the aquaculture system must be secured in a way to prevent unauthorized removal of the tilapia.

Under the new regulations, pond owners in a newly designated "conservation zone" where the department has determined that tilapia escapes could cause harm to native fish will now need to obtain Texas Parks and Wildlife Department approval before stocking tilapia in their ponds.

Pond owners won't be charged a fee for the approval, which can be requested from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department by either the pond owner or their agent, including the tilapia seller.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the approval will not expire unless the pond is modified in a way that would increase the risk of escapes and can be transferred to a new owner when a property is sold.

The new regulations also designate a "stocking zone" in which department approval will not be required to stock tilapia, although escape of the fish into public waters remains unlawful.

The department will administratively "fast track" applications for 10 or fewer triploid grass carp for pond stocking in this new zone, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said.

Under the new regulations, crested and yellow floating hearts will be prohibited and can no longer be purchased or possessed, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, crested and yellow floating hearts are exotic aquatic plants that are sometimes used in ornamental water gardens, and though these species have not been found in the ornamental plant trade in Texas in recent years, they have been introduced in several Texas lakes.

These species have become problematic, requiring treatment to maintain boater access, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said that as with all prohibited plants such as hydrilla, Eurasian watermilfoil, and giant salvinia, they must be removed from watercraft before leaving a lake.

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