The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said it would close part of Galveston Bay to commercial and recreational oystering starting Monday after collecting a low amount of legal size oysters through sampling.
The department announced Thursday it would close part of the bay north of Port Bolivar and roughly between Texas City and Smith Point, on the west side of the bay.
“Sampling results indicate the number of legal oysters is very limited in these areas,” said Lance Robinson, the wildlife department’s deputy director of coastal fisheries. “This closure is designed to provide some protection to undersized oysters so they can reach legal sizes.”
The state tentatively plans to reopen the area in November, Robinson said.
In December, the wildlife department said oyster growth in Galveston Bay might be delayed by Hurricane Harvey. Thursday’s announcement did not connect the closures directly to the late August storm, however.
The announcement came about the same time that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked the U.S. Commerce Department to declare a federal fisheries disaster for the Texas coast.
“Commercial and recreation fisheries along the Texas coast from Nueces County to Jefferson County suffered overwhelming property losses as a result of damaging winds and torrential rainfall,” Abbott wrote. “The inability of businesses to open or conduct operation further compounded the economic losses of this region, as many individuals were without employment in the months following the storm.”
Abbott specifically cited the closure of oyster harvesting areas after the storm.
He also noted the damage done to bait shops, marinas and hotels along the Texas coast, and blamed the storm for a 20 percent decrease in fishing and hunting license sales since the storm.
The two-year federal budget passed by Congress last week included $200 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help mitigate damage caused to fisheries by storms.