Oyster Overboard! Galveston Bay Clamps Down on Harvesting as Bivalve Counts Plunge

Oyster Overboard! Galveston Bay Clamps Down on Harvesting as Bivalve Counts PlungeSource: Wikipedia/Galveston Bay
Elliott Greene
Published on November 27, 2023

Galveston Bay's famed shellfish are hitting another rough patch, as Texas Parks and Wildlife has yanked two more harvest areas from the briny grips of fishers starting November 27 due to a worrying scarcity of bumper-size bivalves. In a turn that's less than pearly for the industry, shrinking oyster ranks have already squeezed 22 of 28 zones off-limits this season, which only fired up on November 1, as reported by The Houston Chronicle.

These fresh closings slam the lid on TX-1 and TX-5, piping down the number of operational areas to a mere six. According to The Houston Chronicle a dour scene where last year's season clamped shut after just six weeks due to similar constraints. The minimum legal size for an oyster is a solid three inches, a benchmark that's becoming a tall order in the lately more barren Galveston Bay waters.

Texas Parks and Wildlife officials are banking on this move to offer a breather for the reefs, allowing them to repopulate with harvest-worthy specimens. But despair not, seafood lovers and fishers—the department will greenlight harvesting in these off-limit spots as soon as nature's bounty rebounds to satisfactory levels," according to a statement obtained by KHOU.

Surviving the cull, TX-2 and TX-8 in Galveston Bay, TX-11 and TX-13 in Matagorda Bay, TX-33 in Corpus Christi Bay, and TX-34 in Lower Laguna Madre will stay open for business. These stalwart spots are displayed on an interactive map for those plotting their next shellfish sortie. However, this isn't just a blow to the daily catch. "We had hoped for better abundance numbers that would have allowed for more areas to be open," Robin Riechers, director of coastal fisheries for Parks and Wildlife, expressed in resignation. The vulnerability of these shelled treasures has been laid bare by a less-than-bountiful summer and harsh natural conditions, the latter amplified by fiercer storms and the pervasive drought reported by the Texas Tribune.