CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Coast Guard students and instructors of the Gulf Regional Fisheries Training Center visited the Texas State Aquarium to familiarize themselves with the various species of marine life in the Gulf of Mexico, Thursday.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Gulf of Mexico was formed as a result of seafloor subsidence approximately 300 million years ago. It is approximately 995 square miles from east to west and approximately 560 square miles from north to south.
Circulating as a loop current, water enters the Gulf through the Yucatan Strait and exits through the Florida Straight, forming the Gulf Stream. This body of water is the ninth largest in the world; it serves as a deposit from the Mississippi River which pushes more than 3.3 million gallons of water into the Gulf every second, and its resources are some of the most productive in the world.
These resources, such as fisheries, shrimp and oysters, are supplied to states all across the country. To help keep the supply flowing, the Coast Guard helps regulate those resources and trains its members with instructors based at the Gulf Regional Fisheries Training Center in New Orleans. GRFTC conducts approximately 20 classes a year and trains nearly 400 law enforcement agents from the Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and state and federal fish and wildlife agencies. The students are from units ranging from Brownsville, Texas, to Key West, Fla.
The training center instructors combine classroom lectures that include learning about everything from the different lengths and weight of fish to the different fishing seasons.
They perform practical exercises such as the proper method of measuring fish and turtle excluder devices. Class members were also are given written tests regarding laws and regulations, types of vessels, how to use marine measuring tools and how to identify and preserve the many different species of marine life.
“This course teaches our boarding teams how to enforce the National Marine Fisheries rules and regulations in order to protect our natural resources,” said Petty Officer 1st Class David Walson, an instructor with GRFTC. “Byproduct reduction devices and turtle excluder devices allow unintended species to escape from fishing nets while still capturing the intended catch.”
To identify the marine life up close, class members spent one morning at the Texas State Aquarium with a book about sport fish in the Gulf. This book helps with identification and information on all popular species that are in the 400,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit.
“Going to the aquarium was a great opportunity for hands on experience to transfer what we learned in the classroom to being able to identify various marine species,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Timberlake, a student. “Overall the class was fun and I’ve learned new fisheries enforcement regulations to help protect the fishermen and our natural resources.”
After completion of the class, members return to the field to continue the living marine resource and the marine environmental protection missions with their perspective units along the Gulf Coast. They will conduct boardings using the skills taught to them by GRFTC.
The Gulf of Mexico has more than 400 species of shells, it is home to two of the 10 busiest ports in the world, and its shores and beaches are ideal for swimming, water sports and fishing. With all these facts in play, and many more, the goal of GRFTC is to ensure that class members learn and retain everything that is taught, and are prepared when boarding a vessel in the Gulf to help ensure the protection of the Gulf and its resources.
This most recent class included students from Station Sabine Pass, Texas, Station Port O’Connor, Texas, Sector Hampton Roads, Va., the Coast Guard Cutter Brandt stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the Coast Guard Cutter Amberjack, stationed in South Padre Island, Texas.
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Video is available here: