Our goal is to restore thousands of acres of oyster reefs to Galveston Bay by planting shell, rock or other suitable substrate on the bottoms that have been destroyed by hurricanes, drought and overharvesting.
Chambers- Liberty Counties Navigation District (CLCND) purchased thousands of acres of submerged bottoms from the State of Texas General Land Office (TGLO) in the mid-1950s. On April 15, 2014, CLCND granted a lease to S.T.O.R.M. on 23,000 acres of its submerged bottoms for the planting and growing of oysters to promote marine commerce and the restoration and enhancement of this vital estuary. S.T.O.R.M. will begin building reefs as soon as permits are issued from all the necessary federal, state and local government agencies that are involved. S.T.O.R.M. not only intends to invest its own money in this venture but also plans to seek out other like-minded oyster fishermen to sublease bottoms so they may have pride in ownership and learn and practice proper sustainable resource management.
BENEFITS OF OYSTERS AND OYSTER REEFS
Oysters and the Economy:
Oyster reefs in Galveston Bay provide more than just the revenue from oyster harvesting, $12 million per year ex-vessel value (TPWD, 2009). Oyster Reefs augment the production of many commercially harvested species which are vital to Texas commercial fisheries such as shrimp, fish, and blue crab, $25 million per year ex-vessel value (TPWD, 2009). Recreational fishing contributed $539 million (TPWD, 2009) economic output to the Galveston Bay area and there is no dispute that oysters and oyster reefs play a vital role in the success of a healthy recreational fishery. Tourism to the Galveston Bay area generates an estimated $7.5 billion in travel and payroll dollars per year, (2005 EPA Coastal Condition Report); this includes birding, wildlife viewing, hiking, ecotourism, hunting, fishing, boating, shopping, recreation, swimming and just "plain ol' relaxing," to list a few.
Oysters and oyster reefs enhance the quality of life for millions of Galveston Bay area residents and visitors and provide numerous environmental benefits and ecosystem services.
SPECIFIC ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
Water Clarity & Bay Grasses
Oysters filter large amounts of water, as much as 50 gallons PER OYSTER PER DAY.
Oysters regulate water clarity by removing phytoplankton and sediment; this allows the sunlight to reach the bottoms promoting sea grass growth. Grass restoration is essential to this process. Bay grasses need sunlight to grow, water clarity allows the sunlight to penetrate to the grasses and oysters are the best method to provide water clarity. Bay grasses provide wildlife with food and habitat, add oxygen to the water, absorb nutrient pollution, traps sediment and reduces erosion.
Nutrient Pollution Reduction
Oysters help remove excess nutrients by filtering water. Excess nutrient loading, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen that come from urbanization and air pollution, fuels the growth of algae blooms. This growth causes conditions that are harmful for fish, shellfish adn other aquatic life and it also creates dead zones that rob the water of oxygen which in turn suffocates marine life. Excess nutrients are the main cause of the bay's poor health.
Before digestion the oyster seperates particular types, sizes, and densities of phytoplankton to be consumed by it. The remaining phytoplankton and sediments are wrapped in a thick mucus called"pseudo-feces" (false feces) and then excreted onto the bay bottom, no longer suspended in the water and no longer a threat to aquatic life.
Although oyster meat is food for humans, it is also food for certian fish, crabs, and snails. More importantly to the ecological cycle, the oyster provides food in addition to its meat. Having removed excess nutrients through the false feces process, the false feces itself is then consumed by other marine organisms living on the reef, including worms, shrimp and small fish, creating an elaborate food web of nearly 300 aquatic species. This food chain starts with water clarity, phytoplankton and bay grasses, and ends with consumption by predator fish and humans.
Habitat & Protection
Oyster reefs provided habitat, food and protection to many aquatic animals and their offspring by providing a safe place to lay eggs, sheltering the young, and furnishing a "built in" food source.
STORM WAS FORMED OUT OF NECESSITY TO PROTECT SOME OF GALVESTON BAY
S.T.O.R.M. has lawfully leased CLCND's submerged land bottoms for marine commerce, i.e, the planting, growing and cultivating oysters for commercial harvest. S.T.O.R.M. will not exclude other fisheries such as shrimping, crabbing, trot lining or any other legal fishing activity that does not harm oyster reefs. In fact, each of these fishing practices is beneficial to oyster reefs and encouraged. S.T.O.R.M. only intends to exclude unauthorized/unpermitted oyster harvesters and oyster men who do not practice sound, sustainable oyster resource management.
Remarkably, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) leased without consent from the land owner, Chambers-Liberty Counties Navigation District (CLCND), submerged land bottoms it did not own to others for private oyster reefs in the 70's and 80's. These unauthorized leases are trespassing on CLCND land. S.T.O.R.M. has expressed an interest to sublease to these folks so they can be legal occupants, provided they operate in a sustainable manner at all times and comply with all applicable laws and rules and regulations. Rather than following the path beneficial to all, some of these folks, and some in our government, have chosen the short-sighted process of vilifying S.T.O.R.M. to undermine this project rather the finding ways to make the project succeed.
S.T.O.R.M. intends to comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations.
We realize this endeavor will require several federal and state agencies to think "outside the box" but in reality it's not that different from the state private oyster lease program already in place. We look forward to working in a positive manner with the policy makers in any of the following agencies so that we may legally accomplish this extremely beneficial endeavor that has virtually zero negative impacts: USACE, USCG, USFWS, NFWF, USGS, NOAA, EPA, USDA, USFDA, TGLO, TPWD, CLCND, CCCC, CCSO, DSHS, TCEQ, CCA, GBF, TAC, AND THC.
Ben Nelson and I, Tracy Woody, have almost 100 years combined experience and expertise in the family oyster business of planting, growing, cultivating, and harvesting oysters. We have been very instrumental in passing laws and regulations to protect and conserve the oyster and the services provided by them for future generations. We intend to follow this path and hope that thoughtful people do likewise.