Evaluation of Oyster Aquaculture for Stabilization of the Texas Oyster Industry

Principal Investigator
Highlight

This project is awaiting NOAA Federal Fisheries Disaster Relief Program funding

Hurricane Harvey proved to be Texas’ and the USA’s most expensive natural disaster, resulting in approximating $160 billion in damages. Major economic drivers and activities along the Texas coast were severely damaged; one of the most significantly impacted was the oyster fishery. Prior to Harvey, the oyster industry was a mainstay of coastal Texas fishing communities, contributing $20 billion in tourism dollars, $54 billion in restaurant sales, and contributing to the wages of 1.2 million workers, annually. Hurricane Harvey disrupted nearly every oyster-producing region in Texas. To improve economic conditions in coastal communities, the oyster industry must be stabilized and the best way to do so is through aquaculture.

Our proposal to develop a semi-commercial scale research site in Matagorda Bay adjacent to the TPWD Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research (Palacios, Texas) was approved and amended to the Palacios Marine Education Center. The project received funding through August 31, 2022.  An Australian Long-line Cage System and a floating pontoon cage system have been installed. Cages/bags containing oysters, representative of various common methods used to grow oysters in natural waters, are in place and maintained by two full-time Technicians and a full-time Research Assistant.

Oysters are periodically evaluated for growth and survival and the site is monitored for various environmental/water quality criteria (e.g., temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, phytoplankton, total suspended solids, total settleable solids). Collection of scientific data is reported to TPWD quarterly.

The findings from this project will be disseminated to various state agencies, conservation groups, the oyster fishing industry, through presentations at scientific conferences, publication in scientific journals, and meetings with various stakeholder groups. This project will assist in developing oyster aquaculture in Texas and potentially alleviate fishing pressure on public reefs as well as designing a certificate program for individuals who plan on establishing their own commercial oyster farms.