Texas Sea Grant’s Graham honored for work with Gulf shrimp fleet

December 18, 2015

By Cindie Powell

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS — Gary Graham, Marine Fisheries Extension Specialist with the Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University, was honored earlier this month with a career leadership award for his work to support the Gulf and Southeastern U.S. shrimp fishery.

Graham received the William Q. Wick Visionary Career Leadership Award from the Sea Grant Extension Assembly at the 2015 Sea Grant Extension and Communicator Meeting in Mystic, Conn. The award recognizes outstanding career achievement, leadership, vision and contributions to Sea Grant Extension.

“Gary’s programming should serve as a model for current and future Sea Grant professionals as they work to develop relationships with coastal and marine communities and businesses,” said Josh Gunn, Extension Program Leader for Texas Sea Grant. “His relationship with the shrimp industry has resulted in numerous success stories.”

Graham first began working on a Sea Grant-funded research project in 1970 that sought to better understand the life cycle dynamics of white shrimp in Texas. He was later hired as a Texas Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service Assistant in 1976, and his later titles included Professor and Senior Research Associate before he accepted a partial retirement in 2011.

After more than 40 years of extension work, Graham currently focuses primarily on the issue of bycatch, non-target species that are caught in commercial fishery operations. His career coincided with the development of turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, and the relationship he developed with the shrimp industry facilitated the acceptance and adoption of the devices, which today are 97 percent effective in excluding sea turtles from nets. Today, Graham teaches captains and crews proper installation, use and maintenance of TEDs. Under a pilot program funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, he and Cameron County Coastal and Marine Resources Agent Tony Reisinger inspect shrimp boats and issue a gear compliance form to those in compliance with TED regulations, allowing them to market their product as sustainable. Graham’s work with the industry on fuel-efficient trawl gear has also resulted in a fuel savings of over 17.7 million gallons and $51 million for the Gulf and Southeastern U.S. shrimping fleet since 2008.

Photo caption: Texas Sea Grant Extension Program Leader Josh Gunn and Marine Fisheries Extension Specialist Gary Graham.

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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.