Roll Red Tide: Still No Good News for Oyster Lovers from the Coastlines of Texas

Categories: Food News

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Steven Doyle
Red tide, the naturally occurring algae bloom that causes toxicity in shellfish, continues to plague the state's coastline -- keeping Texas oysters out of local restaurants and threatening the $18.5 million Texas oyster industry.

The state closed the entire coast of Texas to oyster fishing due to the red tide levels in late October. Christine Mann, of the Texas Department of State Health Services, tells City of Ate that the area remains closed.

The current bloom trumps the longest in more than a decade. In 1996, a red tide bloom lasted 49 days, but it was more than a 100 days before oysters could be safely harvested under DSHS regulations. The current bloom has lasted 55 days and is still going strong.

"Middle coastal areas continue to have visible bloom," Mann says, listing Metagorda, Lavaca, Aransas Bays and others.

Red tide thrives in warm, salty water. The current drought has caused a spike in salinity, allowing the bloom to proliferate.

There are exceptions. Galveston Bay is seeing a noticeable decline in algae spores, although levels remain significantly above the threshold required to to lift the ban. And even when they drop low enough to be considered safe, the oyster beds must be individually tested and approved by the state before they can be harvested -- a process that can take weeks.

Lance Robinson, the Regional Director for Coastal Fisheries at the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife, has been working directly with Texas oystermen. The agency is responsible for managing the leases that govern the fishing of private beds. Fifteen-year leases are sold for a song to fisherman, who then determine their real value on the open market. The last lease sold garnered $150,000 for 60 acres.

"It's been a tough year for the oyster industry specifically," Robinson says of the effect the red tide closures are having on local fisherman. The current bloom is unprecedented not only because of its duration, but also because of the amount of coastline impacted, he says. "It's affected every bay along the coast."

Leases can be expensive, but there's also upkeep associated with the beds. Oystermen spend tens of thousand of dollars maintaining substrates that support the oysters as they breed. Cultch, a term used to describe many hard materials -- oyster shell, limestone, clean concrete -- is dumped in the bays after harvests to provide new oysters a place to grow. For now, no oysters are being harvested to offset these costs.

None of which means you won't find oysters at your favorite seafood joint. Oystermen are buying Louisiana oysters, shucking them and reselling them, both to replace lost revenue and to maintain relationships with existing customers. But Louisianan resources are taxed as well. Fresh water pumped into Mississippi River two years ago successfully kept oil from the BP spill from infiltrating the marsh. But a sharp decline in salinity resulting from the fresh water influx killed many oyster beds. It could be two to three years until those beds recover.

There could be one small upside to Texas' oyster problems. As regulators continue to delay the harvest season, populations continue to grow. Oysters are taking a break, getting fat on red algae, enjoying high times. When the bloom disappears they'll purge themselves of the toxins and Texas oyster fans can get back to shucking -- hopefully from a strong and re-invigorated oyster fishery.


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21 comments
Texas Ranches For Sale
Texas Ranches For Sale

This is only the tip of the iceberg, but if you take your time, do your homework and hire competent professionals to give you advice, there is no reason why you can't achieve your dream of country living.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Kerg’s Here,     Just wanted to wish you all a merry x-mas!  The new Kerg’s 4.0 is sweet, loving, and like his right wing leaning, Christian friends-likes to bake pies, drink coffee and engage in prayer circles.  The model is well within the guidelines of The Joe Tone standard, and is fully equipped with songs, like:“Jesus loves me”“Our God is an awesome God”An added bonus of the Kerg’s 4.0 is that it is translucent, biodegradable, and uses half the energy of Kerg’s 3.0…….it is also diatomaceous, retractable, and even gives whimsical, gentle thoughts while at company gatherings.  It still employees a “leave no trace” ethic. Note: The swiggin’ Budlight feature, while eatin’ chicken parmesan sandwiches has been disabled!  As has the FOODDICK option.

Love You All.-New Kerg.

jon from tjs
jon from tjs

this red tide sucks.  Good excuse to get into East Coast oysters.  Fishers Island, Cottuits, Barnstables have all been awesome.

paul
paul

The Gulf is a DUMP! yeah we need less regulation like we need a hole in our head.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

I ate oysters once, at Acme Oyster house in New Orleans, I had the Chargrilled version smothered in cheese and butter, bc otherwise I aint putting slimy ass tasteless sea garbage in my mouth

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

I have two more REAL, living stories about BIG ladies.  One involves calling the cops in NH; the other involves a lady smoking under a pristine, spring fed waterfall in Oklahoma.  And there there is the time that gigantic lady threw me down the stairs, but, I choose not to tell that sordid, angry tale.  A tale so abhorrent and lazy, it'd make a hooker go to church.  A tale with such disharmony and injustice, that it would make even make Rick Perry think!  Yes, Rick Perry, THAT Rick Perry, the one that represents us nationally, and makes us look like a bunch of freaking redneck buffoons........and this on the heals of a George Bush presidency.  Man o'man; on one side you have Newt Romney, and the other side brings Obama.........we need a man like Ross Perot again.  Or Thomas Jefferson. As a goof Texan American, via New England (cue patriotic music), I say we take her back boys!  Let's capture her virtue!  Where is our will to fight (patriotic music grows louder)?  Let's fight for dignity, justice (slight cheering) and THE AMERICAN WAY!!!!!!!!

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

The ONLY thing I'd take off the Texas coast is one of "dem der" sea heifers; like the ones I see nude sunbathing on Padre Island N.S. Should be illegal.  Imagine comin' up over one of those remote sandunes, like 40 miles in, and blam, two naked fatties with those reflective mirrors, hot dogs. and a bowl of 7 layer dip.  

So they see the Kerg's coming, and they kind of cover up, like I want to see saggy t+ts, and a quivering belly.  Anyhoo, I just turned and run-like Forest.  AND it's hard to run in sand.  Also, I threw up in my mouth a little bit, and had that RUSTY taste all day.  Not even cod taco's on corn tortillas, with cilantro and fresh jalapenos could get the taste out of my mouth.........and I even cooked said cod over embers-for like an hour.  

Goes Good With:-Spring Mix Salad w/walnuts and homemade cranberry dressing (boil cranberries, add alot of powdered sugar, and equal parts olive oil and white vinegar; I like to add something like a smidge of Tabasco, or balsamic vinaigrette , or Liquid Smoke-to give it color , and a bit of flavor.-Baby New Potatoes w/fat free butter, bacon bits and shredded pepper jack; maybe a dollop of fresh sour cream.

Anyhoo, don't eat anything from this nasty coast, and let's get some traffic up in this sonnofabitch today!  11 hits a day is gonna make COA go the same route as The Sporto; and then where would Mary go to spew her vile hatred?  

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

You stay on topic, you'll be fine. You keep being a dick and using our web site as your personal pissing ground, we'll keep deleting, and eventually we'll start blocking. You call it censorship, we call it business, and business will be just fine without you, brother.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

At Smith and Wolensky's in Vegas, we had some kind of North Atlantic (methinks) oysters that were as big as your paw...they were tremendous..not slimy..didn't add no ding dang cocktail sauce or horsey..WOW!..ummm...POW!

Best dang seafood I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Kerg, what are you doing about the cod problem in the NE? Tom Brady? The Sawx?  Our Texas oysters will be fine by the time the Pats bow out and the Sawx are getting ready to follow up their epic collapse.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Kiss your wifey with those typing fingers?  Hate to see how bitchy you are once the stork finds his way to your house, and you get 3 hours of sleep for a couple of months.

Business would've been just fine without good ol cussing Cletus that had a beef with you, me and everyone not named Richie Shit too, Mr. Tone. Yet you allowed him to join in the effing World Series posts..and not a word about it from you. Just sayin Brother Tone.

Stay hard Kergs, fight the power.

In other news: The Gulf is still a toilet, and Houston is the anus of the Great state.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Dear Joe,    That diatribe on fatties is my finest work!  Let the world see it, and bask in the glory.  I didn't say I was the only commenter in this this thing; heck I'm sure you and I can both leave, and this place would be fine.  I'm not the Jesus of COA....I'm the voice of reason.  You seem really angry lately sir. 

Steve
Steve

That's good!!

Regarding Red Tide, it's a very unfortunate natural thing.  

Even more unfortunate is that, when they should have been harvesting prior to this, much of that time was spent dealing with British Petroleum's mixologists adding oil to the ocean.

Askdfj
Askdfj

You idiots should never reproduce

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Vegas, now there is a town to talk about.  I love vegas, been to 3 nascar races out there.  Its amazing that even in their hometown, It was very uncomfortable at the track in my Kurt Busch gear.  I got cussed and yelled at, but nothing like offering a total dick a beer to make him feel like shit

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

No worries JBG; the "spirit" of Bahhhston will prevail.  Pat's are good for two rounds of playoffs.  Sox; first place next year.  Cod-I dunno.. The problem with overfishing is everywhere. I'm glad I won't be around in the ladder part of this century, when we add 15 billion people, and run out of water, gas, food, etc. 

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