Oyster populations had only just started to bounce back after nearly a decade of natural and manmade disasters when Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast. Researchers say that the storm’s impact on oysters in Texas has created a bleak outlook for both the animals and the oyster industry.

Lance Robinson, deputy director of Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Coastal Fisheries Division, says preliminary data suggests that oyster mortality in certain areas of the Gulf reached as high as 80 to 100 percent. He says Harvey’s intense rains brought a large amount of fresh water into the Gulf system, creating a deadly environment for the animals, which require salt water to survive. He pointed to Galveston Bay’s salinity after the storm — less than 1 part per 1000, nearly equivalent to the salinity of freshwater.

Although oyster populations were significantly reduced by the storm, Robinson says the animal’s extreme adaptability will mean it will only be a few years before the animal recovers. However, he says the storm’s effects on the commercial oyster industry will be felt for some time. In addition to supplying the product around the state, Texas’ oyster fishery comprises about 20 percnet of the country’s supply of eastern oysters.

 

Written by Rachel Zein.

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