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New Regulations on Hunting and Fishing


With the 88th session of the Texas Legislature over, bills that passed both chambers and the governor’s desk have begun to take effect. Some of those laws aim to preserve Texas’ wildlife, while others enforce the safety of Texans on waterways. Here’s a rundown of Texas’ new laws on everything outdoors.

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Shooting in a streambed

Senate Bill 1236 by Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) prohibits the discharge of a firearm or bow in or on the beds or banks of navigable rivers or streams. At first glance, it may seem the new law addresses hunting from a boat, but it applies equally to sizable areas of dry land found within or along publicly accessible waterways. Flores said the purpose of the legislation is to “prevent the use of riverbeds as corridors for poaching” and compared his bill to laws that prohibit hunting from public roadways.

“Some of these riverbeds are fairly wide, and it’s common for people to hunt and camp in them,” says Texas Game Warden Stormy King, assistant commander of wildlife enforcement. “While testimony and official analysis of the bill imply an intention to curb trespassing, it’s important to note that the law also applies to landowners.”

There are exceptions, however, to the law’s prohibitions. Hunters may still hunt along waterways with shotguns discharging shot only (bird shot, buck shot, etc.). The use of firearms in hunting alligators caught on a lawful device is not affected by the new law. Anglers may continue to use archery equipment specifically designed and intended for bow fishing purposes. Additionally, there are exceptions for landowners or their agents killing venomous snakes and nonindigenous rodents. 

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Shark fins

As the regulatory agency overseeing and enforcing the state prohibition on shark fins, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has worked diligently with lawmakers to find better solutions to curb the underground industry. SB 1839 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and companion by Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) clarifies current shark fin prohibitions in addition to the sale and purchase of shark fins, which are used in a soup prized by Asian cultures. Among the many prohibitions, the legislation deems illegal such acts as the possession, advertisement or transportation of shark fins or shark fin products for the purpose of sale. 

“This bill is clear and direct when identifying prohibited actions related to the sale and purchase of shark fins,” says Texas Game Warden Les Casterline, assistant commander of fisheries enforcement. “Noncompliance with these requirements is a criminal offense and will not be tolerated here in Texas.”

In an effort to curb a growing appetite for shark fins, Texas Game Wardens stepped up enforcement efforts. Last year, Texas Game Wardens Kathleen Stuman, Lt. Kevin Winters and his K-9 partner gained national attention for investigating a local San Antonio restaurant containing more than 400 fresh and frozen shark fins. SB 1839 provides additional tools that will assist officers and district attorneys prosecuting crimes negatively affecting Texas’ Gulf Coast ecosystem and beyond.

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Boating while intoxicated

Over the summer, Texas Game Wardens saw a rise in boating-related accidents and deaths on the water. While drought and heat contributed to the issue, alcohol remains a leading factor. HB 1163 by Rep. Reggie Smith (R-Sherman) created an enhanced penalty for boating while intoxicated with a child passenger under the age of 15.

“Children are our most precious and vulnerable members of society. They deserve to be protected from any harm or danger, especially when they are in the care of adults who are supposed to look after them,” says Texas Game Warden Cody Jones, assistant commander of boating enforcement. “Anyone who endangers the life of a child by operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs should face the same consequences as those on the roadway. Enhancement penalties have been in place for driving while intoxicated for 15 years, so we are pleased to see it applied equally under the law. It’s one more reason to leave the alcohol on the shore.” 

Other

Laws aren’t the only changes determined in a legislative session; the various appropriations committees produce a state budget for the following two years. Of the items requested by TPWD, funding was granted for two small airplanes and various game warden patrol boats.

Replacing and expanding agency transportation enables stronger conservation efforts across Texas. The vehicles will be dispatched during critical incidents, natural disasters and remote wildlife surveys.  

 Jen Shugert;  TPWD

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