Harvesters in coastal Texas say the public oyster season is better than anticipated despite Hurricane Harvey killing some oyster populations with heavy rains.
The August hurricane dumped more than 50 inches of rain in parts of southeast Texas, the Galveston County Daily News reported .
Many oysters were killed by the influx of freshwater, specifically in east Galveston Bay, said Lance Robinson, Coastal Fisheries regional director at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He said it could take several years for the populations to fully recover.
"We lost pretty much everything in east Galveston Bay," Robinson said.
But other regions of the Gulf that were closed have now reopened. Prestige Oysters in San Leon is buying from about 90 boats along the coast, said Raz Halili, vice president of the distributing company.
"My expectation really was that all the oysters would die," Halili said. "Seeing fishermen able to work and make a living is really kind of a miracle."
Halili said oysters' resilience through Harvey is a good sign for the population. His company and others have helped rebuild reefs to keep a healthy population of the mollusk, he said.
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"There's a fight about the resource, but this hurricane just goes to show how oysters do come back," he said.
Robinson said he's hopeful about the Gulf's oyster crop because of an industry spike after Tropical Storm Claudette in 1979. The storm destroyed much of the oyster population but also killed off parasites that prey on oysters.
Data from the couple years after Claudette showed an increase in oyster production, according to Robinson. He said he expects the same from Harvey.
"I would guess we'll see a similar pattern emerge in the next couple of years in Galveston Bay, barring any other big storms," he said. "But I know that doesn't necessarily bode well for the industry in the interim."