Help on the way for troubled Texas flounder – Shell Oil Company, BCT cap funding for state’s expanded flounder hatchery program

Conservationists are celebrating the successful conclusion of efforts to fully fund a project to reverse the downward trend of flounder populations in Texas waters as Shell Oil Company and BCT recently committed $40,000 to the “Flounder Building” under construction at Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson.

Since 2006, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been perfecting the spawning, larvae culture and live feed techniques required to raise southern flounder fingerlings, and needed only adequate space to increase production levels from releasing tens of thousands of fingerlings annually to releasing hundreds of thousand fingerlings annually.

“In Texas coastal waters, the southern flounder is one of the top three recreationally fished saltwater species but there is definitely reason to be concerned for its future,” said John Carlson, chairman of BCT. “This is a species struggling against a host of environmental factors and it needs all the help we can give it. Fortunately, we have great partners like Shell willing to step up and help change the trajectory of one of our state’s favorite fish.”

Shell’s funding caps the effort for the new flounder building in Lake Jackson to fully develop large-scale hatchery production to supplement the wild population and compensate for weak year class recruitment periods due to freezes, warm winters, harmful algal blooms, hypoxia and other adverse events.

“Shell is committed to the entire Gulf Coast region,” said Richard Tallant, Vice President Production, Gulf of Mexico at Shell. “We are proud to work with a host of conservation partners to protect fish and marine life for generations to come.”

While regulations governing commercial and recreational harvest of flounder have been ratcheted up in recent years, the population has not responded as state managers had hoped, meaning more drastic measures may be needed. To give the stock the best chance of recovery, CCA Texas funded $125,000 for construction and $100,000 for equipment needs for the Flounder Building, and was joined by Shell, Ralph H. Sauer Jr, John B. Willrodt, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other generous partners under the Sport Fish Restoration Act. Once online, TPWD will be able to greatly expand flounder culture efforts into seasons that have traditionally been too warm to raise the demanding larvae.

“We truly are fortunate in this state to have public, private and corporate entities that are so willing and able to take action when any of our wildlife resources is faced with a crisis, and our flounder fishery is in a crisis,” said Patrick Murray, CCA National president. “The future of that fishery may literally be in our hands, and it is good to know that we and our partners are putting our best effort into getting flounder back on track. The outpouring of support that the hatchery program has received is certainly setting the stage for a positive outcome.”