Galveston Bay oyster problem

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A series of natural and man-influenced events have rocked Galveston Bay oyster harvest, as well as other Texas coastal locations. According to a recent article in the Houston Chronicle, the first blow was Hurricane Ike in September, 2008, which covered nearly half the oyster beds in Galveston Bay with silt, suffocating them.

The draught that began in 2010 slowed down the amount of fresh water entering the bay system, creating a perfect environment for diseases and predators of oysters, especially the parasite Dermo.

This year’s freshwater runoff has been killing oysters. John Schwarz, marine biologist at Texas A&M University at Galveston said oysters shut down if they get too much freshwater. “They can only stay so long before they die.”

In 2015 red algae was back in the Gulf. Texas Health Department closed nearly all the oyster reefs in South Texas. Red tide is not harmful to the oysters, but the people who consume the oysters can become sick.

On Dec. 5, 2015 Texas Parks & Wildlife Department closed several oyster reefs in Galveston Bay because the oysters were too small to harvest. “As of Dec. 5, only six of 35 areas were open for harvesting on the entire Texas Gulf Coast,” said Lance Robinson, TPWD’s Deputy Division Director for Coastal Fisheries.

Next came a legal fight concerning the harvesting of oysters in Galveston Bay when Oyster Resource Management (STORM) obtained an exclusive 23,000 acres oyster beds lease from Chambers-Liberty Counties Navigation District, which challenged the leases granted by the state. TPWD has for decades leased these reefs in Galveston Bay. Attorney Chris Feldman, representing Hannah Reef Inc. and Shrimps R Us Inc. is suing Oyster Resource Management.

But there is a dim light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not another calamity.

The flooding caused by this year’s rains has cleansed the oyster beds of parasites. “In 18 months you are going to see all kinds of fishermen out there and the oysters will be back again,” said Raz Halili, junior vice president of Prestige Oysters.

Source: Houston Chronicle

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