Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

New Reefs, New Hope for Texas Oysters

Photo by Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP/Getty Images

After nearly losing the entire season to algae blooms caused by the drought, Texas oysters have made a surprising comeback.

In a season that was nearly lost to toxic algae blooms caused by the record single-year drought, Texas Gulf oysters have made a startling comeback. It could be the latest start ever for Texas oyster season, but recent rains have been sending fresh water into the Gulf, flushing out the red tide that made the oysters unsafe to eat.

Currently the Espiritu Santo, San Antonio (which reopened today), and parts of Lavaca and Galveston Bays are open to oyster harvesting, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. In just weeks, an oyster season once thought lost has been resurrected.

But there may be trouble on the horizon. In a news release Thursday, Parks and Wildlife warned of rising detections of a new algae bloom, Dinophysis in Port Aransas. While the bloom is not toxic like red tide, it is consumed by oysters and makes them inedible, according to the department. While that bay is not open to harvesting, the algae has also been found further up the coast.

Whatever happens with the algae, there’s new hope for Texas oysters thanks to some help from artificial reefs.

Photo by Texas Parks and Wildlife

An artificial reef dome is helping to restore oysters in Galveston Bay, Texas.

Parks and Wildlife recently added 59 “concrete artificial reef domes” to a one acre patch of a restored oyster reef in East Galveston Bay. “Each dome was individually placed on the site using a crane on a construction barge,” the department says. The domes help attract fish and oyster larvae, they say, which will help “facilitate studies on oyster density and fish utilization.”

It’s all part of a larger program at the department over the last fifteen years, which helps both the oyster and fish populations. While Texas oysters are currently struggling to overcome the effects of the drought, they were also badly damaged by sediment kicked up by Hurricane Ike in 2008, the department says. They’ve now restored about 200 acres of oyster reefs in Galveston Bay.

Now, go get shuckin’.


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