Texas is taking steps to develop an oyster mariculture industry in the state by opening up online applications for those seeking permits to operate an oyster farm.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) said the new oyster farming industry allows people to lease public waters on the Texas coast to grow and harvest oysters for commercial purposes.
“With natural oyster reefs along the Gulf coast struggling from hurricanes, flooding and overharvest, oyster mariculture has become the answer for many people harvesting oysters in the Gulf of Mexico,” the TPWD said in a statement. “Due to the high demand from restaurants and the public, mariculture that includes off-bottom cage culture of oysters has gained popularity throughout the United States.”
During the 86th Texas Legislative Session in 2019, HB 1300 directed the Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop an off-bottom oyster mariculture program that would utilize cages to grow oysters. Oysters grown in these floating or suspended 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. In May 2020, the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted rules establishing this program.
“While we don’t expect oyster mariculture to replace wild harvest, this program should provide an opportunity for growers to produce a high-quality product destined for the raw, half-shell market. And, in doing so, the bays will benefit from the additional water filtration that oysters provide. We look forward to working with the public to help create successful oyster mariculture operations in Texas,” said Lance Robinson, Coastal Fisheries Division deputy director.
An extensive FAQ section, posted on the TPWD website, has been developed to help answer questions about this new industry and a GIS mapping tool allows users to see where proposed and permitted oyster mariculture sites will be located in Texas bays. Applicants can go online to download the permit application packet or email firstname.lastname@example.org to have one mailed. Local contact information for Coastal Fisheries field offices are also available for additional information or questions.
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