PALACIOS, Texas — Experts hope that new oyster harvesting rules adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission will help restore the struggling industry.

Texas oyster reefs have taken a beating since Hurricane Ike in 2008, followed by drought and flooding, the Victoria Advocate ( ) reported Sunday. Ike made landfall in Galveston, covering nearly half of the oyster beds in Galveston Bay with damaging silt.

Commissioners adopted regulations Thursday that reduce commercial possession limits and establish additional harvest restrictions. The orders, effective November through April, apply to recreational and commercial harvest of oysters. The rules reduce the commercial possession limit of oysters from 50 sacks to 40 sacks per day and close Sunday to harvesting.

The commission also extended the oyster harvest closure at Half-Moon Reef in Matagorda Bay to Nov. 1, 2018, and closed approximately 28 acres of public oyster reefs in the Galveston Bay area for restoration.

Three Texas Parks & Wildlife Department technicians sampled reefs off the coast of Palacios earlier this month, counting dead and live oysters, plus “spat” — baby oysters less than an inch long. Sampling spat is important because it’s an indication of the future of the crop, technician Caren Collins said.

Lance Robinson, deputy director of the department’s Coastal Fisheries Division, says the new regulations should not cut into the bottom line for commercial fishing.

“When we make a proposal for a change, we have to back it up with hard science data,” Robinson said. “Our data has to be defendable because in the past, we’ve been sued over decisions that we have made, and we try to make our decisions on the best available science.”

The goals of the rules changes are to promote efficiency in using oyster resources and provide a more stable price structure for commercially harvested oysters, he said.


Information from: The Victoria Advocate,