Development of a Siting Tool for Sustainable Oyster Aquaculture in Texas

Principal Investigator

Researchers from three of HRI’s research disciplines are working in collaboration to create an oyster aquaculture suitability index (ASI), which utilizes actual oyster farm inputs (FARM; Farm Aquaculture Resource Management; Ferreira et al., 2007) to determine carrying capacity within a representative bay in Texas. This system will be able to predict carrying capacity for any location within a bay based upon long-term data sets for various environment/chemical variables. Establishing an aquaculture planning and siting tool for specific areas within individual bays will provide science-based support to development of rules and regulations governing oyster farming in Texas.

GIS-based siting maps are very useful for avoiding multiple-use conflicts, including navigation, residential development, submerged aquatic vegetation, and oil and gas infrastructure. The model we will develop will use archived satellite imagery to provide a synoptic view of change in conditions within Copano Bay over 25 years, encompassing droughts, El Niño years, etc. This bay has been identified by Pollack et al. (2012) as containing oyster reefs with exceptionally high health and suitability for reef restoration.

Ultimately, the judicious identification of suitable sites for oyster aquaculture will equate to long-term sustainability of oyster supplies for seafood supply-side and retail sectors in Texas, creating the substantial lateral economies while avoiding negative impacts on the natural fishery. We expect the tools developed within this project to be fully transferrable to other potential production sites in Texas. Ultimately, results from this project would be used to inform a national data base regarding oyster aquaculture.

Project Objectives:

  1. Develop an aquaculture suitability index to characterize farming sites based on their potential for successful oyster cultivation,
  2. Integrate ASI output with that from an existing web-based simulation platform (the FARM model), calibrated for Texas bays, in order to
  3. Predict production/carrying capacity of oysters under various culture scenarios.