The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has received a $50,000 grant from the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to continue and expand oyster reef restoration in Galveston Bay. They recently completed the first phase of the restoration project in September of 2009.
Phase 2 will restore at least 2.5 acres of oyster reef habitat, divided up into several smaller patches of reef habitat. The purpose is to improve recreational fishing in the area and to to provide other “ecoystem sercies” from oyster reefs. The reefs will be located near privately owned piers and in waters currently closed to commercial oyster fishing due to high bacteria counts.
The project will seek to enlist local pier owners to act as stewards of the newly created reefs and to grow baby oysters by hanging mesh bags filled with oyster shells from their piers, a process known as “oyster gardening.” Gardened oysters will be deposited on top of the reefs after construction is completed to quickly establish an oyster population. This should help the oysters, the reef itself, and recreational fishing opportunities in the area.
None of the oysters produced by the project will be used for human consumption. In addition to SARP and NOAA, TPWD has partnered with the Galveston Bay Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment Trustees (an ad hoc group comprised of representatives from NOAA, USFWS, TPWD, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas General Land Office) on this project and will continue to look for opportunities to continue this type of work in the future.
SARP is a coalition of state and federal government agencies operating in the southeastern United States.