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Gulf Coastal Waters: Evaluating the Safety of Oyster Harvesting in 14 Bays

A completed project to evaluate the safety of oyster harvesting in 14 bays
aerial photo of Galveston Bay

Galveston Bay System from the Air
Photograph courtesy of NASA

Counties: Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Galveston, Harris, Jackson, Matagorda, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria
Parameter: Bacteria in oyster waters
Basins: Bays and Estuaries, Neches-Trinity Coastal Basin, Trinity River Basin, San Jacinto River Basin, San Jacinto–Brazos Coastal Basin, Brazos-Colorado Coastal Basin, Colorado-Lavaca Coastal Basin, Lavaca-Guadalupe Coastal Basin, Lavaca River Basin, Guadalupe River Basin, San Antonio River Basin, San Antonio–Nueces Coastal Basin
Segments: 2421, 2422, 2423, 2424, 2432, 2439, 2441, 2442, 2451, 2452, 2453, 2456, 2462, 2472

Background and Goals

Data assessed in 2002 showed that 14 bay segments in three geographic regions (see “Project Overview” above) were not safe for harvesting shellfish because of elevated bacteria concentrations. The use of waters for oyster harvesting—called the “oyster waters use” in the state’s standards for surface water quality—is the most commonly impaired use among Texas bay and gulf waters.

Microorganisms from human and animal waste may endanger public health by contaminating oysters and other shellfish, making them unsafe to eat, especially since some shellfish are often eaten raw.

To address the impaired oyster waters use, the TCEQ’s TMDL Program initiated a project to evaluate the affected waters and develop a strategy for action. This project was completed in August 2006.

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Public Participation

To involve area stakeholders in the project, the TMDL Program worked with the existing estuary program forums of the Galveston Bay Estuary Program and the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program. Both groups include regional stakeholders who represent a wide variety of interests, such as agriculture, industry, government, and civic groups.

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Project Status

  • Bays in the Upper Texas Coast
    After analysis, the work group determined that TMDLs were needed for this group of bays. Read about the Upper Coast Oyster Waters TMDL project to find out more.
  • Bays in the Middle Texas Coast
    The Middle Texas Coast Oyster Waters project was initiated to determine the extent and severity of the bacteria impairments. For more information about the project, e-mail tmdl@tceq.texas.gov or call 512-239-6682.
  • Bays in the Lower Texas Coast
    The Mission and Aransas Rivers Tidal project was initiated to reduce bacteria in waters above Copano Bay.

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Contact Us

For more information about the project, please call 512-239-6682. Or e-mail us at tmdl@tceq.texas.gov, and mention the Gulf Coast Oyster Waters project in the subject line.

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communities working together taking care of our rivers, lakes, and bays