The leader of a Southeast Texas county has declared a disaster in an effort to assist oyster farmers struggling following recent heavy rain and flooding.
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry on Tuesday announced the local declaration as a step to help oyster business owners get financial help. A state declaration for Galveston County would be necessary before oyster harvesters could get government disaster assistance.
Henry signed the Galveston County disaster declaration on Saturday.
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The judge says oyster harvesters are still recovering from Hurricane Ike, drought and recent freshwater from storms. Rain and flooding along the Brazos River sent freshwater draining into Galveston Bay, diluting the saltwater needed by oysters.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Texas Parks and Wildlife deputy division director for coastal fisheries Lance Robinson said that some oystermen who lease bay bottom from the state are reporting that entire banks of oysters have died.
Raz Halili, junior vice president at Prestige Oysters, one of the largest shippers of fresh oysters in the country said his company is facing difficult times.
"Last year we had heavy floods, and it killed an entire crop," Halili said. "We're looking at the same thing happening this year
Henry says a large part of the state's $30 million oyster industry relies on Galveston Bay.
"These oyster farmers endured Hurricane Ike, algae, red tide, drought and now an influx of freshwater from flooding," Henry said. "My hope is that by making a declaration here, our state and federal partners can see that we're behind our small business owners during this difficult time."