Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center: A Valuable Production and Outreach Tool

Faced with declining license sales in the last quarter of the twentieth century, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recognized that it needed to take a new approach to traditional fisheries management. Research, fishery surveys, and fish stocking were no longer enough. Education and outreach were also needed to help sustain the high quality of Texas recreational sport fishing in the new millennium by maintaining the existing customerbase while building interest in fishing among a population that was increasingly urban, multi-ethnic and exposed to a wide variety of potential recreational activities. Fishing now has to compete for consumers' limited time and money with a plethora of school activities, organized sports leagues, the Internet and a host of other recreational activities. The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC), opened in November 1996, was constructed to facilitate two top-priority needs: sportfish production and outreach. From the very beginning, TFFC was designed to be an educational center and hatchery complex that would both teach visitors about fish and fishing. Unlike typical aquarium facilities, TFFC features natural habitats constructed around the outside of the building rather than on the inside. From an educational perspective, TFFC takes guests on a tour of Texas aquatic ecosystems ranging from wetlands to the bottom of a Texas reservoir. In nine years, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center has established itself as a leader in educating the public about fishing and conservation. Through August 2005, 545,735 people visited the center; 208,211 were school-aged children, and over 35% of the total visitation came from the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, and Tyler, Texas, urban areas. My presentation summarized the efforts and impacts of this outreach facility.

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