At the intersection of legislation and science, a new opportunity for an ecologically and economically sustainable oyster aquaculture industry is being spawned on the Texas Gulf Coast.
For years, Dr. Joe Fox, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist with a joint appointment at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi through the Harte Research Institute, HRI, has been at the center of the oyster aquaculture effort. His involvement has ranged from working with legislative and business leaders to helping draft legislation to investigating different types of oyster cages for use in aquaculture.
The Texas legislature recently made commercial oyster aquaculture a real possibility for Texas by passing two bills during its most recent legislative session, Fox said. He cited House Bill 1300 sponsored by Reps. Todd Hunter, Genie Morrison, Dade Phelan, Eddie Lucio and John Cyrier, and Senate Bill 682 sponsored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and co-sponsored by Sen. Gina Hinojosa.
The bills will become law on Sept. 1, at which time Texas Parks and Wildlife Department rules and regulations relating to oyster aquaculture will be developed, Fox said. Actual aquaculture production is expected to begin around September 2020.
Fox has received $6.6 million in funding to establish the Oyster Resource and Recovery Center in Palacios for aquaculture, reef restoration and outreach and education starting this fall. He also received $750,000 in funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through the TPWD as part of Texas’ Disaster Relief Funding to establish an oyster farming evaluation project in Matagorda Bay, also slated to begin this fall.
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