Eastern Oyster

Eastern oysters have been a valuable food, a popular resource for roads, Portland cement, chicken feed, and other materials, and a flashpoint for controversy over dredging rights, water pollution control, and storm surge protection.


Narrator: Bill BalboaTitle: Private and Public ReefsDuration: 00:01:51Date: December 20, 2021Bill Balboa is a coastal fisheries biologist, based in the Brazoria, Texas area, who has worked at Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas AgriLife - Sea Grant Texas, and at the Matagorda Bay Foundation. Here he comments on the profitability and exclusivity of privately built and leased oyster reefs, such as some in Galveston Bay, vs. the competition and damage seen in smaller, more heavily harvested, open-access bays further south on the coast.Narrator: Lynn BenefieldTitle: Oil, Gas and OystersDuration: 00:02:46Date: January 27, 2022Lynn Benefield worked for the Coastal Fisheries Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife from 1966 through 2001, and was responsible for overseeing both oil and gas development and oyster dredging in the bays. Here he describes the situations where oystermen would harvest oysters from well pads on the bay bottoms, and sometimes hang their dredge on a pipeline, tearing it, and releasing oil and/or gas to the bay.Narrator: Bob BurlesonTitle: Politics and DredgesDuration: 00:06:53Date: June 19, 1999Bob Burleson, an attorney and Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner, recalls the controversial effort to stop oyster shell dredging in Texas bays, and so protect the reefs themselves as well as the young shrimp, crabs and fish found in the estuaries.Narrator: Ronnie LusterTitle: Bay ClosuresDuration: 00:01:37Date: August 14, 2023Ronnie Luster has fished the Texas coast for decades, and was involved in the formation of the Coastal Conservation Association. Here he tells the story of the state's closure of shellfish harvesting areas in Galveston Bay, Matagorda Bay, San Antonio Bay, and Aransas Bay. Through these closures, Texas Parks and Wildlife was responding to excessive, concentrated oyster dredging in many parts of the Texas coast following Hurricane Ike's 2008 damage to major reefs in Galveston Bay.Narrator: Larry McKinneyTitle: Ike and HarveyDuration: 00:02:20Date: November 22, 2021Dr. Larry McKinney has studied oysters for decades through his work at the Harte Research Institute for the Gulf of Mexico and at Texas Parks and Wildlife. Here he discusses the profound new stresses on oysters due to the more severe storms associated with climate change.Narrator: Keith OzmoreTitle: 7-Year PlanDuration: 00:02:50Date: October 8, 1999Keith Ozmore, an outdoor writer for the Houston Press, and later, an aide to Congressman Bob Eckhardt, tells about the years-long struggle to shut down shell dredging along the Texas coast. The back-and-forth maneuvers included government mergers, commissioner appointments, agency rulemakings, and citizen groups' litigation.Narrator: Jennifer PollackTitle: Rebuilding ReefsDuration: 00:03:48Date: February 8, 2022Dr. Pollack is a marine scientist with a special interest in benthic life. She serves as chair of Coastal Conservation and Restoration at the Harte Research Institute, and as an associate professor at Texas A&M - Corpus Christi. She has been involved with oyster research and conservation for many years, and here describes efforts to rebuild oyster reefs in Texas bays.Narrator: Lance RobinsonTitle: Reef ProfileDuration: 00:02:56Date: January 10, 2022Lance Robinson worked as a biologist in the Coastal Fisheries Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife for 30 years. In this excerpt, he points out that areas of Sabine Lake protected from oyster dredging have reefs 8-10 feet tall, much higher than the inches-tall profile of reefs in fished bays elsewhere on the Texas coast, and reminiscent of past years when cattle were driven across Galveston Bay on the reefs that once came close to the surface.Narrator: Lance RobinsonTitle: Limited EntryDuration: 00:04:29Date: January 10, 2022Lance Robinson, a biologist in the Coastal Fisheries Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife, managed commercial fisheries policy and regulations for a number of years. Here he tells about legislative efforts to limit entry to the oyster fishery - efforts that were stymied through loopholes on boat size caps and license registration dates.Narrator: Bill RodneyTitle: Sanctuary ReefsDuration: 00:03:30Date: December 2, 2021Bill Rodney is a coastal ecologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Here he discusses the agency efforts in 2017 to reduce dredging pressure on the state's oyster reefs. Two of these measures included setting aside a 300' unfished buffer along the shores of all Texas bays, and also by creating brood stock sanctuary areas within restored reefs.Narrator: Bill RodneyTitle: Consider the OysterDuration: 00:04:05Date: February 17, 2022Bill Rodney, a coastal ecologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, is also a musician. Here he performs a song (with Yaniv Brenner on piano and organ) that he wrote about the many wonders of the humble oyster, including water filtration, habitat creation, and wave abatement. We are grateful for his contribution of this copyright-protected work to the archive.