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Texas oystering closed indefinitely after Houston Ship Channel collision

Posted: 6:02 PM, May 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-14 19:34:01-04

The chemical spill in the Houston Ship Channel is causing major concerns for marine life in the Galveston Bay.

Since then, fish kills have been reported along Kemah Beach and oystering has been closed indefinitely there.

Commercial oyster season closed last month in Texas except for Galveston Bay which is the largest oyster fishery in the state. That is until Friday’s collision.

Dr. Jennifer Pollack, Chair of Coastal Conservation & Restoration at the Harte Research Institute said “We talk a lot about the oysters being our canaries in the coal mine in our bays and so they’re really our first warning system of when something is happening.”

The Department of State Health Services shut down remaining oystering operations as a precaution but Dr. Pollack fears what this could mean long-term.

Dr. Pollack said “This isn’t just fishing for sport, this is fishing for us to eat and we really want make sure that food source is clean and safe and not contaminated in any way.”

Oysters are essential to our waters and economy. They are filter feeders which means they clean and clear the water. The oyster shells create reefs which help protect shorelines from eroding and provide a habitat for fish. And oyster harvesting provides jobs and a food source, bringing in millions of dollars a year across the state.

Dr. Pollack says this is why it’s so important to look for other ways to keep the oyster population strong and healthy.

State Representative Todd Hunter says this is exactly why House Bill 1300 is needed, which would allow aquaculture in the state of Texas to help consumers offset issues just like this.

House Bill 1300 passed through the Senate on Friday. It’s now headed to the Governor but it’s not known if he’ll sign it into law.