Oyster Tycoons Fight over Baybottom Territory as Reefs Recover from Flooding

OYSTER TYCOONS FIGHT OVER BAYBOTTOM TERRITORY AS REEFS RECOVER FROM FLOODING glo-galveston-bay-oyster-mapMore action is expected next week in the Galveston County courtroom hosting part of the ongoing underwater real estate fight involving some of the biggest names in the local oyster fishing industry, writes Harvey Rice. At stake: oyster rights on 23,000 acres of subsea land leased out in 2014 by the Chambers-Liberty Counties Navigation District — including some areas already leased out to other fishermen by Texas Parks and Wildlife. The move spurred several lawsuits, first from the lessee’s industry competitors and (former) friends, and later from the state of Texas itself; the issue has since worked its way to several appeals courts, one of which stopped the case from being moved to Chambers County. And even the oysters themselves have faced a dramatic few years, Rice notes, between the recent Houstonarea flooding (which sent enough freshwater runoff to the coast to drastically alter the bay’s salt levels) and the stretch of drought before that (which let salinity get too high). [Houston Chronicle] Map of oyster habitat in Galveston Bay: General Land Office

10 Comment

  • How many pounds of oysters will it take to pay the lawyers? Something tells me the percentage of “keepers” is about to go up.

  • I would be scared to eat any filter animals from Galveston bay, it’s the sewer for city of Houston and runoff from all the refineries and industrial operations along ship channel. That used oil that Paco and Cletus poured down the storm sewer because they didn’t want to pay the $5 disposal fee is now back on your dinner plate.

  • I didn’t know oysters are being harvested there… I don’t think I’ll ever eat oysters in Houston again. The oyster lobby should definitely done a better job keeping this out of the news. So much for the state being “business friendly” in this case.

  • Uhhh where did you guys think the oysters were coming from?

  • @MrEction, cold waters of the Atlantic or North Pacific, or at very least far offshore in the gulf, not at the end of a sewer pipe. Live and learn. Remembering how I polished off three dozen oysters at some boat shaped restaurant makes me now gag a little.

  • I always found that Galveston Bay oysters had a slight metallic tinge to them (as compared to oysters from Matagorda or San Antonio Bays), and actually I quite like it. Perhaps it could be said that a true appreciation for Galveston Bay’s environs doesn’t come without some carcinogenicity. Oh well, so be it.
    Issues with wastewater effluent in a large water column don’t bother me much. Distance and dilution are important factors and most of the Galveston Bay oyster beds have those going for them, but also, any marine biologist can tell you that estuaries are chock-full of animal waste and other decomposing organic matter in general. The water isn’t clean. It was never clean. The situation with urban effluent was much worse about a hundred years ago before most cities had wastewater treatment, but that only *occasionally* lead to public health problems even though oyster harvesting and packaging was also more suspect.
    That said, chemical waste would certainly still be a concern. Industrial accidents in the bay cause a lot of ecological damage. Hurricanes and dredging can also disturb sediment and release the pollutant back into the water column. About that…toxicity is closely linked to dosage. It’s probably not a good idea to go hog-wild on any sort of seafood from Galveston Bay, but it’s probably okay to eat it occasionally; or maybe avoid it if you have liver or kidney damage.

  • commonsense, if you thought Gulf Coast Oysters were coming from the Pacific then I’m not sure you’re living up to your namesake :)

  • MrEction, I said oysters in general, most restaurants tell you pacific, Atlantic or Gulf, sometimes even down to the bay. When they say Gulf I was hoping OUT in the gulf, not in the shipping lanes and only feet from refineries.

  • Those are some awfully fancy restaurants you’re getting your oysters at if they are coming from the Atlantic, commonsense. I only know a couple places in town that server anything other than Galveston bay oysters.
    If you didnt know that oysters are harvested out of Galveston Bay then you need to get out more.
    Galveston bay oysters and seafood are perfectly fine, any other opinion is unscientific and just plain snobbery.

  • I know that Liberty Kitchen will usually have some atlantic/pacific oysters. They’re quite delicious, but quite a bit more expensive.