AUSTIN – Aquatic plants offer both beauty and functionality in landscaping and aquaria, and the use of algae to produce biofuels has recently received increased attention. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants to ensure the introduction of any non-native aquatic plants, including algae will not harm the state’s natural resources.
In an effort to allow the use of some non-native aquatic plants while adhering to its mission of wildlife and habitat protection and conservation, TPWD is proposing a list of approved exotic aquatic plants, including macroalgae, as well as rules establishing a permitting program for certain types of exotic aquatic plants, including non-native microalgae for importation, possession, use and sale in Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Regulations Committee has authorized agency staff to gather public input on the proposed rule changes. The Commission will finalize the new rules at its Nov. 4 meeting.
The use of a list of approved aquatic plants is a departure from the department’s present use of a list of prohibited species to restrict the importation and sale of certain non-native aquatic plants. No algae are on the current prohibited list.
Presently, possession of some non-native aquatic plants is prohibited without a permit. This system requires the department to continually monitor and update the prohibited list as new species are brought into Texas.
Dr. Earl Chilton, TPWD’s exotic vegetation program manager, said several varieties of algae are known to cause toxic blooms that can harm fish and people. “TPWD has been tasked by the legislature to ensure that the new rules are as permissive as possible without allowing the importation or possession of algae that pose environmental, economic, or health problems,” Chilton said. “We need input from the industries, researchers, and any others in the state that use algae.”
Each species considered for the approved list must pass a scientific risk analysis before it will be added to the list to ensure that it does not have the potential to negatively impact the state’s aquatic resources. An updated list of candidate and ineligible plants can be found on the agency Web site http://archive.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/exotic/aquatic_plants.
TPWD will conduct an informational meeting to discuss exotic aquatic plants, macroalgae and microalgae on Sept. 1 at its Austin headquarters. A morning session from 10 a.m. to noon will discuss proposed regulations on vascular aquatic plants and macroalgae. A session to discuss proposed regulations affecting microalgae is set for 2-4 p.m.