HB 1300 - (Rep. Hunter) - SB 682 (Sen. Kolkhorst)
TRA is working with a group of stakeholders ranging from conservationists to the business community and academia, including the Coastal Conversation Association, Visit Corpus Christi, and oyster researchers from Texas A&M University, to work with state agencies and others, including Texas Parks & Wildlife, to spearhead legislation that would create a new industry in Texas – oyster farming.
U.S. supplies of oysters have rapidly increased; whereas those for Texas have declined and are at a 20 year low, due to a variety factors including hurricanes, and increased fishing pressure. Although Texas has one of the largest coastal shorelines in the nation, it is the only coastal state that does not engage in mariculture production of oysters.
Earlier this year, Representative Todd Hunter announced the organization of the Coastal Bend Oyster Task Force to develop awareness on the economic and environmental benefits of oyster aquaculture in Texas. It is a well-balanced group of stakeholders ranging from conservationists to members of the business community and academia, including the Texas Restaurant Association, the Coastal Conversation Association, Visit Corpus Christi and oyster researchers from Texas A&M University, among others.
The group is working specifically with state agencies including Texas Parks & Wildlife to spearhead legislation that would create a new industry in Texas – oyster farming - which has the potential to positively impact the Texas restaurant industry, consumers and the Texas economy as a whole. Legislation will cooperatively balance the interests of commercial oyster producers, recreational fisherman/tourists, conversation groups and state agencies. Further, legislation will ensure that all oysters are produced by fully-trained and certified individuals, acting as environmental stewards, as well as successful oyster growers.
An overview of plans include:
- working to stabilize local oyster supplies and reduction of risk from disasters,
- diversifying oyster growers to consist of smaller owner/operators (2-3 acres of water) and larger production-oriented farms (10-20 acres),
- establishing three state-certified Texas oyster hatcheries strategically located along the coast from Corpus Christi to Galveston,
- creating a truly sustainable Texas oyster fishery consisting of existing privately leased areas, a managed wild-reef harvest, and a thriving mariculture segment producing 6 million pounds of oyster meat annually, and more.
House Bill 1300 was filed by Representative Todd Hunter on February 1, 2019. Its companion, Senate Bill 682 was filed on February 8, 2019 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst. HB 1300 passed both the House and the Senate, and was sent to the Governor on May 14, 2019.