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June 15, 2010
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Commercial Fishermen Aid in Restoring Galveston Bay Oyster Reefs
HOUSTON – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Coastal Fisheries Division and commercial oyster fishermen are working together to restore about 2,000 acres of oyster reefs damaged by Hurricane Ike. More than half the bays reefs, about 8,000 acres, were smothered by sediment deposits when Hurricane Ike made landfall in September 2008.
About 180 fishermen have signed on to assist in restoration efforts taking place during the next couple of months. Fishermen are being hired to use their boats and fishing gear to pull dead shell out of the sediment, thereby providing a surface for oyster larvae to attach and grow. Re-exposing the buried shell will provide the hard substrate oyster larvae require. It will take 18 to 24 months for newly settled oysters to reach a legal size of three inches.
Besides the valuable commercial fishery a healthy oyster population supports, restoring oyster reefs to Galveston Bay is critical to the overall health of the ecosystem. Oysters feed by filtering tiny plants known as phytoplankton from the water. This filter feeding also removes silt and contaminants from the water, making oysters nature’s bio-filters. Oyster reefs also provide habitat for numerous bottom dwelling fish and invertebrates that are in turn food for larger game fish. Scientists refer to these various functions of oyster reefs, including providing product for the commercial fishing industry, as "ecosystem services."
Funding for this project comes from a federal fisheries disaster grant to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department through the National Marine Fisheries Service. This project will provide benefits to the ecosystem and to both the recreational and commercial fisheries in Galveston Bay.
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