Texas Sea Grant Extension leader elected to head Gulf Fisheries Commission

November 01, 2007

By Cindie Powell

COLLEGE STATION — Meeting in mid-October in Point Clear, Ala., the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC) elected Ralph Rayburn, associate director and extension program leader for Texas Sea Grant, as its chairman.

The GSMFC was formed to promote conservation, preservation and utilization of the fishery resources of the Gulf of Mexico. Its 15 commissioners come from the five Gulf states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Each Gulf state has three members: a legislative appointee who may also be a state legislator, a governor-appointed private citizen with a knowledge of and interest in marine fisheries, and the state’s fishery resource agency director.

“Since its Congressionally mandated creation in 1949, the commission has played a key role in wise fishery management and conservation within the Gulf of Mexico,” Rayburn said. “As its mission has evolved through the years, the commission has taken on the role of a critical liaison between federal and state fishery management leadership. This year’s $91 million budget, most of which are funds to support state efforts, reflects the commission’s importance.”

Rayburn, who has been associated in some way with the commission throughout his 30- year career, said he was “honored and privileged to be trusted with its leadership.”

The commission serves as a regionally based forum for the discussion of the challenges and programs of marine management, industry and research and to develop a coordinated policy to address those issues. The group also provides coordination and administration for cooperative state/federal programs regarding marine fisheries resources.

Programs administered by the GSMFC include the Interjurisdictional Fishery Program, which was designed to develop management plans for stocks that migrate beyond state and federal borders; the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program or SEAMAP, which is a partnership of state and federal government and universities to collect, manage and disseminate fishery-independent data in information; and the Sport Fish Restoration Administrative Program, which is designed to provide coordination of the recreational fisheries programs in the five Gulf states. Most recently the commission has been given funding to coordinate the restoration of fisheries resources along the central Gulf Coast that were negatively impacted by the 2005 hurricane season.

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Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.