Just like students get graded on tests, our coast is also getting a letter grade.
The score gives state organizations and beach-goers an idea of just how environmentally healthy our coast really is.
It’s an effort that the Harte Research Institute (HRI) at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has been working on in recent years. Some of the best marine scientists in the state gave the Texas coast a B- for environmental health.
“A B- is a pretty good score when you think of all the things that go on, on the Texas coast. We’ve had hurricanes, and we’ve had red tides,” said Dr. Larry McKinney, the senior director at the HRI.
The 2010 deepwater horizon oil spill also left a large impact on the coast, and left many questions unanswered.
“I was getting questions from others, (like) what is the health of the Gulf? How healthy is it? Are we recovering from the oil spill? And I didn’t have an answer for that,” said Dr. McKinney.
There wasn’t an objective answer until now. A team of nearly 50 scientists across the state and at the HRI reviewed 20 years of data on coastal ecosystems, water quality, fisheries, birds, sea grass and oysters.
“Fisheries are in really good shape, birds are in pretty good shape, water quality is not bad, and oysters and the sea grass are kind of holding their own,” McKinney said.
The idea is to give organizations like Texas Parks & Wildlife, the Texas General Land Office, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality a tool to use in funding decisions.
“We want to give this to them as a tool so that when they’re trying to make decisions on how to allocate scarce money, they’ll have a tool,” McKinney said .
He says there’s also one more thing a B- tells us about our coast.
“It basically tells us that our Texas coast is resilient and it bounces back from what we do to it,” McKinney said.
Next, researchers will go to Cuba and Mexico in hopes of eventually creating a report card for the entire Gulf of Mexico.
For more information about the report, visit the Harte Research Institute’s page by clicking here.