State officials are recommending parts of Galveston Bay be closed to oyster harvesting amid concerns that immature mollusks are being removed and reefs are still recovering from Hurricane Ike.
An increasing number of fishermen have been caught illegally harvesting undersized oysters, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department officials. To address the problem, the department is planning to close three of the bay’s major oystering areas this weekend and stopping continued dredging that endangers the reefs.
The Galveston County Daily News reports Lance Robinson, who oversees the oyster industry for TPWD, as saying, “We’re in a perfect storm. The production is decreased, but the demand is high. So the incentive for taking in illegal undersized oysters is huge, but it means we have to shut down the reefs.” Dredging in the bay has decreased since 2000 from providing 90 percent of the oysters in Texas to 42 percent as of last year. It is illegal to collect sacks more than 15 percent full of oysters smaller than 2 3/4 inches.
Game Warden Jennifer Provaznik said she and her colleagues try to be vigilant of crews that are overfishing small oysters and moving into prohibited reefs.