Marine Fisheries SpecialistBrazoria County
P.O. Box 1125
West Columbia, Texas, 77486
Areas of Speciality
- Gear design and analysis
- Fishery management
- TEDs (turtle excluder devices)
- BRDs (bycatch reduction devices)
- Bycatch reduction
- Trawl net exclusion
- Fuel efficient trawl doors
- Gear design and analysis
- Cataloging of bottom obstructions
- Kemp’s ridley sea turtle recovery
Organization: Texas Sea Grant
After more than 40 years of extension work, Gary Graham currently focuses primarily on commercial fisheries bycatch issues, an area in which he has had a long and distinguished career. He started working with the Texas shrimp industry early in the development of turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, 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. The two recently conducted proof-of-concept testing for new bycatch reduction devices (BRD) aboard a working shrimp boat. Their work will help to streamline the federal approval process for newer, more efficient designs of these mandated devices that eliminate non-target species from shrimp nets but also reduce the shrimp catch.
With the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation, Graham designed a workshop on TED regulation, with the goal of more consistent enforcement across the Gulf and a clearer chain of responsibility. “TEDs are complex, and fishermen are sometimes told one thing by one party and then another by someone else,” Graham explains. “Then the boat is boarded and an owner receives a fine and didn’t even know these things were happening.”
On the marketing side of the industry, Graham partnered with the Texas Department of Agriculture to conduct a two-day workshop about shrimp and the shrimp fishing industry for the HEB grocery chain. He also serves on the World Wildlife Fund’s Smart Gear panel and evaluated the Seaqualizer, a device that equalizes pressure in the swim bladders of fish to increase the likelihood that fish brought up from depth will survive catch-and-release.
Early in his extension career, Graham worked with commercial fishermen to create a comprehensive guide to the location of obstructions on the ocean floor, which could damage nets. That book saved fishermen a lot of money and also helped Graham gain trust that smoothed the way for his work with TEDs. “This job is all about people, getting out and working with them one-on-one. It is unique but highly effective. Sea Grant was modeled after the agriculture extension concept, but the difference is that I deal with a farmer who stays on his tractor 24 hours a day for 40 days straight. When he gets off, he doesn’t necessarily want to come to a meeting.”
In 2014, Graham was honored with the Gene Raffield Humanitarian Award from the Southeast Fisheries Association for his devotion to educating commercial fishermen, demonstration of leadership, and support of fishing communities. He also was a member of a team of Texas Sea Grant agents and specialists who won the 2012 Superior Service Award from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for their efforts in providing training and helping Texas commercial shrimp fishermen qualify for Trade Adjustment Assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.