Texas Oyster Mariculture Industry
According to the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M- Corpus Christi, the oyster industry has been struggling in past years. This has been due to overfishing, natural and man-made disasters, which has impacted the oyster supply in Texas. However, oyster mariculture offers new economic opportunities and environmental benefits to the state. This week I would like to focus on the new oyster mariculture industry in Texas, and the new permit application online announced by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Oyster mariculture is the growing of oysters in managed conditions in a bay within a cage or bag for market size consumption. Oysters are normally harvested from public fishing grounds by dredging, which destroys the sea bottom, losing the natural benefits of oyster reefs. However, oysters grown in cages typically grow faster than wild oysters because food sources are more abundant higher up in the water column and the oysters are protected from predators.
The benefits this industry can bring to Texas are both economic and environmental. The economic benefits include the new job and business opportunities needed to help meet the demand for high-quality oysters in the state. As we grow oysters in Texas the need for importing oysters will reduce because the quick and year-round production of oysters. The environmental benefits include the reduced pressure on wild-caught oysters. Oysters also help to enhance biodiversity, water filtration, protect shorelines from erosion by storms, and provide other ecosystem services.
In the 86th Texas Legislative Session, a bill from the Coastal Bend was passed to bring the oyster mariculture industry to Texas. Recognizing the need for economic stability and environmental resilience along the Texas coast, House Bill 1300 directed the Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop an off-bottom oyster mariculture program. Before this bill, Texas was the only U.S. coastal state to not allow oyster mariculture. In May 2020, the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted rules establishing this program. Now, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has announced the application process online.
To grow and harvest oysters commercially a permit will be required. To apply for permits and start the process to harvest oysters, please visit Texas Cultivated Oyster Mariculture. TPWD has developed an FAQ section about oyster mariculture in Texas, which can be viewed at Oyster Maricutlure in Texas – FAQs. Finally, for more information and research from the Harte Research Institute, visit Texas Oyster Aquaculture.
If you would like to review more about the legislature, please visit the Texas Legislature online at www.capitol.state.tx.us/. If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns, or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office; 361-949-4603).
– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32
Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 512-463-0672.