Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Fishing Closures announced; turtle patrols begin (Via Herpdigest)

Fishing Closures announced; turtle patrols begin
February 03, 2011 Valley-Star, TX

The powerful winter storm that has pummeled half the nation forced the closure of Rio Grande Valley fishing spots.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department announced the closing of the Brazos-Santiago Pass South Jetty along the beach for ½ mile and out from shore for 1,000 yards, and part of Port Isabel.
Also included is the area from shore out to a line from the high point of the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge on the northwest and the end of the old causeway on the southeast, including the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway bounded by Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge on the north and Port Isabel Swing Bridge on the south. It does not include the adjacent canal in Port Isabel.
Also closed is the entire harbor at Port Mansfield from the corners of the bulkheads on either side of the harbor to the harbor mouth.

There has been no announcement of plans to shut down the Rio Grande Valley's three state parks or three national wildlife refuges.

That, however, could change.

"There are no closures planned, but any decision will be made on a day-to-day basis," said Kelly McDowell, project leader for the South Texas Refuge Complex, which includes Laguna Atascosa, Santa Ana and Lower Rio Grande national wildlife refuges.

The Valley's three state parks are Resaca de la Palma in Brownsville, Estero Llano Grande in Weslaco and Bentsen-Rio Grande in Mission.

Jody Mays, a biologist at Laguna Atascosa, said ocelot trapping has been temporarily suspended because of the winter storm and all 15 traps have been pulled.

"It would be too risky putting traps out," she said. "In the wild, the cats have ways to deal with the cold but in a trap, they have limited mechanisms," she said.

Three ocelots have been trapped this season, including one on Monday. The three ocelots include two males, one of which is 14 years old, and a female, 1 to 1 ½ years old that was deemed too young to be fitted with a radio-transmitting collar.

The cold weather could take a toll on salt water fish and a TPWD release said coastal residents can report freeze-related fish kills or cold-stunned fish to the agency's law enforcement communications office at 281-842-8100 or 512-389-4848.

In addition, dozens of volunteers are patrolling the Laguna Madre for signs of cold-stunned sea turtles.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, none had been found, but officials expect cold-stunned to start showing up by today.

Jeff George, curator at Sea Turtle Inc. on South Padre Island, said 75 staff and volunteers are taking part in the patrols.

"We'll be particularly looking along the Laguna Madre," George said. "The Laguna Madre is only 3-feet deep and significant cold will drop the temperature significantly and turtles will not be able to take that change."

George said nearly all the turtles will be green sea turtles.

He said that if a cold-stunned turtle is found in the first 48 hours, "chances of survival are almost 100 percent."

After 72 hours, George said the survival rate is only about 10 percent.

Persons who find cold-stunned or dead turtles should immediately call Sea Turtle Inc., day or night, at 956-761-4511 and they will be advised of an emergency number to call.
A veterinarian and other turtle experts will be on call.

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