Commercial oyster farming in Texas will officially open for business next week. It’s a locally-led effort that has been in the making for nearly three years, and legislation for it passed last year.
The oysters sold at Water Street Oyster Bar on Thursday were shipped from Louisiana, but when the oyster farming industry is up and running, the customers will be able to enjoy oysters grown in Texas. It’s thanks to the work of the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, State Representative Todd Hunter and Brad Lomax, the owner of Water Street Oyster Bar — to name a few.
“It’s been three years, working and realizing that Texas needed to get this industry rolling, because we were missing something by not having an oyster farming industry,” said Lomax.
Until now, Texas was the only coastal state that didn’t have an oyster farming industry regulated. After legislation passed last year, Texas Parks and Wildlife created rules and regulations for the new industry. Now, those interested in farming can apply for a permit with the state agency.
“You can’t be too close to sea weed or existing oyster beds or any waters that have been closed by the health department,” said Lomax.
Lomax says the timing of opening the industry is just right because the oyster supply has dropped in the past decade, and even more so the past 24 hours.
“We just had a major storm hit and run right over the oyster beds in Louisiana, so already we’re starting to see supplies tightening,” said Lomax.
Lomax has three areas in mind where he’d like to farm including Copono Bay and San Antonio Bay. He’s aiming to begin farming by putting baby oysters in the water this upcoming winter.
According to Lomax, the newly-regulated industry will be the first new fishery in Texas in more than 100 years, raising the oyster bar for Coastal Bend customers.
“It’s a wonderful idea and I think it’s a very good way to produce a very good food product,” said Richard Sheppard, a Water Street Oyster Bar customer.
“Sustained oyster farming is the wave of the future. It’s the way to go,” said Kevin Martin, another customer.
Lomax says it’ll be about a year before Texas-grown oysters are sold in his restaurant.