Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Approves Closing Mesquite Bay Complex, Restoration Oyster Reefs for Harvest

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AUSTIN- AUSTIN- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (TPW) approved two oyster regulation changes at its Nov. 3 meeting. These new regulations prohibit oyster harvest in Carlos Bay, Mesquite Bay and Ayres Bay (Mesquite Bay complex) and temporarily prohibit harvest in restoration areas for specific reefs in in San Antonio Bay, Galveston and Trinity Bay.

These closures will protect sensitive and ecologically important reefs from the pressure of commercial oyster boats, which has sharply increased in recent years, and allow them to recover.

The Mesquite Bay complex closure proposal was heard by commissioners during its March meeting. The proposal was taken off the agenda and commissioners directed TPWD to form an oyster advisory taskforce for further study into the management of the resource. After several meeting with this taskforce, the proposal was presented again to the TPW Commission in November.

Oyster reefs provide shoreline protection and act as a nursery habitat for fish. The physical structure of these reefs can also protect the shoreline from erosion and storm surge. Estuaries like the Mesquite Bay complex, contain reefs near Cedar Bayou Fish Pass as well as seagrasses and salt marsh, all of which help recruit and provide habitat for fish.

The closures follow multiple public meetings held on the coast seeking input from coastal constituents.

“We want to thank everyone who took the time to submit their thoughts both online and in-person for providing the department and commission with important context for all facets regarding the management of oysters,” said Robin Riechers, director of Coastal Fisheries for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). “Oysters are unique in that they are both an essential habitat and support an entire fishery, which makes the management of this important resource complex. We look forward to working with Texas Legislature this session and stakeholders in the commercial industry to come to a resolution that balances out the ecologic and economic needs for Texas.”

A two-year temporary closure for Josephine’s Reef within in San Antonio Bay and Dollar Reef within Galveston Bay was also approved along with a one-year temporary closure for three reefs (Trinity Sanctuary Reef, Trinity Harvestable Reef 1, and Trinity Harvestable Reef 2) in Trinity Bay in the Galveston Bay complex.

These temporary closures allow for recently restored reefs to recruit oysters and grow until the reef is healthy enough to be harvested.