Texas reports high interest in oyster farming
By Liza Mayer
Several groups have applied for oyster farming permits in Texas since the state opened applications online in August, according to industry sources.
“One sure indication of the interest in and optimism for the industry is that several groups have applied for permits to grow oysters commercially on the Texas coast,” said Dr Joe Fox, Marine Resource Chair with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
“The permitting process is daunting but will likely become more streamlined as both regulatory agencies and operators become more familiar with the process and farming itself,” said Fox, a former Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist.
The groundwork is being laid to help this emerging industry succeed. Scientists at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Mariculture Laboratory are developing the state’s capability to provide growers a reliable local supply of oyster seeds.
They are also working on a selective breeding program focused on developing oyster lines that are suited to the unique environmental conditions along the Texas coast.
Authorities and research partners acknowledge the state must develop oysters that are unique and that add value for the consumer with regards to taste and nutritional value.
“People are willing to pay a little more for a quality product with a unique taste profile. And it also helps if the product is produced locally and has a good ‘story’ to go with it. I think producing premium half-shell oysters specific to certain areas of the Texas Gulf Coast will make a both a great experience and story for the consumer,” said Mario Marquez, who was recently hired as a Texas Sea Grant aquaculture specialist to help in facilitate the industry’s development.
In an earlier interview with this publication, Fox estimated that the oyster industry could bring in $70-$90 million in economic benefit to Texas.