Saltwater anglers work to conserve, restore marine resources
On a recent, pleasant spring evening, about a dozen avid anglers gathered at Bubba’s at Tiki on Tiki Island to talk about fishing. There was discussion about a kids’ tournament that was coming up that weekend. And then the topic turned to conservation efforts.
The anglers are members of the Galveston chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association, a national nonprofit organization with 17 coastal state chapters spanning the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic seaboard. It’s hard to go anywhere along the Texas coast without spotting a CCA decal on a pickup.
The Coastal Conservation Association began in 1977 in response to drastic commercial overfishing along the Texas coast that hurt redfish and speckled trout populations, leading several anglers to create the group. Today, thousands of recreational saltwater anglers make up its membership.
The association’s programs and projects include scientific studies, scholarship funding, artificial reefs, hatcheries, contaminate studies, hydrology studies, freshwater inflows and support of local enforcement agencies and others.
“Basically, we’re just trying to educate the public about having an awareness of conservation of local fisheries and about the dangers of overfishing,” said Ken Ellis, president of the Galveston chapter.
Many of the association’s members, Ellis included, joined because of a love of fishing, he said.
“I’ve basically been fishing my entire life,” he said. “In junior high, my friends and I were dropped off Friday after school and we’d stay out — cooking burgers and fishing — until Sunday.”
There are about 2,000 members in the Galveston chapter, which is a bit unusual as Coastal Conservation Association chapters go, Ellis said.
“We’re not split up,” he said. “You go to Houston and almost each neighborhood has its own chapter. Here, it’s everywhere from League City and Dickinson to Bolivar.”
The chapter participates in activities through out the year, from kids’ fishing tournaments in Hitchcock to banquets at Moody Gardens in Galveston.
About 600 people attend the yearly banquet, which raises money for conservation efforts, Ellis said.
The group also does a lot of volunteer and conservation work with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Galveston Bay Foundation, Ellis said.
And it also weighs in on debates about national fisheries and has participated in state and federal fisheries management issues.
But the key to fishing conservation is education, members agreed.
That’s why the chapter’s major goal is education, through fishing tournaments for children and the like, Ellis said.
“Education about conservation helps us build toward the future,” Ellis said. “Without an education, there is no future.”
The Coastal Conservation Association, on a statewide level, has participated in more than $740,000 in conservation work along the Texas coast in 2017, officials said.
Nationally, that work is even more expansive, Ellis said.
“We’ve opened up bays that were closed because of silting,” Ellis said. “It depends on the time and where the efforts are focused.”
While the organization now reaches to a national level, the focus is still on local chapters such as Galveston’s, officials said.
“Funds raised for CCA Texas do not fund projects for CCA Florida, Louisiana or Maine,” officials said.
For people like Ellis, lifetime anglers with a passion for conservation, the organization is hard to beat.
“During the winter, when there’s not a lot else going on, it’s great for the camaraderie and the people,” Ellis said.