Texas Oyster Season Opens Nov. 1 With Multiple Bay Closures
AUSTIN — The Texas commercial and recreational oyster season opens Tuesday, Nov. 1 and closes April 30, 2023. In an effort to protect and restore oyster reefs showing signs of environmental stress, many shellfish harvest areas will be closed to oyster fishing at the beginning of this season.
“Oysters are the bedrock for the vitality of our bays along the mid and upper Texas coast,” said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director. “They are essential to the health of our fish and wildlife, water quality, commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, and coastal economies. Over time, a variety of environmental factors and localized harvest pressures have greatly impacted this valuable natural resource across the entire Gulf Coast. We will continue to work closely with the Texas legislature and our stakeholders to create, restore, and maintain healthy, sustainable oyster populations and habitats so that a viable oyster fishery can persist in Texas.”
In March 2022, the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Commission directed TPWD to form an ad hoc oyster advisory workgroup representing all the stakeholders who shared feedback to further study oyster management strategies and issues surrounding the sustainability of oysters in our bay systems.
“We are committed to working with all stakeholders on this critical environmental and economic challenge,” said Arch H. “Beaver” Aplin Chairman of the TPW Commission. “The Commission will continue to exercise in-season bay closures, when necessary, approve increased funds for the license buyback program for commercial fisheries and propose new and additional innovative ways to help improve the biological health of the oyster population along our Texas coast.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife code allows for the emergency closure of an area to oyster harvest when it can be shown there is evidence of being overworked. These closings are based on samples collected by TPWD showing low catch rates of legal-sized, harvestable oysters. Of the 29 shellfish harvest areas along the Texas coast, 20 will be closed at the start of the oyster season.
“We recognize the economic impact of these closures on local families and businesses that depend on oyster harvests,” said Robin Riechers, director of Coastal Fisheries for TPWD. “As we continue to work with the oyster industry, we want to balance conservation and restoration needs with those of the commercial fishery. These compromises bring some biological risk for shellfish populations, so we will be diligent in our oyster population monitoring.”
The areas that are open have relatively high abundance of legal oysters and were chosen in an attempt to distribute the commercial oyster fleet over more area. Some shellfish harvest areas that do not meet previously stated metrics for populations of legal-sized oysters will remain open but monitored closely. TPWD will continue to sample open shellfish harvest areas and use legal authority to close zones that drop below recommended metrics in order to facilitate reef recovery.
The following shellfish harvesting areas will be open beginning Nov. 1:
Corpus Christi Bay
Lower Laguna Madre
TX- 29 (oyster harvest is open from south of a line beginning at 28º06’ 52.19″, 96º 55’ 32.52″ (28.11450º N, -96.92570° W) and ending at 28° 06’ 38.19″, 96° 53’ 17.41″ (28.11061° N, -96.88817° W)
Shellfish harvest areas including TX-8, TX-11, TX-33, and TX- 34 have not been sampled or closed in recent years as they have had very few or no reported landings of oysters.
The following shellfish harvesting areas will be closed beginning Nov. 1:
San Antonio Bay
TX- 29 (oyster harvest is closed north of a line beginning at 28º06’ 52.19″, 96º 55’ 32.52″ (28.11450º N, -96.92570° W) and ending at 28° 06’ 38.19″, 96° 53’ 17.41″ (28.11061° N, -96.88817° W)
A map showing the shellfish harvest areas can be found on the Department of State Health Services website.