Companies fight for right to harvest oysters in Galveston Bay

GALVESTON, TX (KTRK) -- A battle over who has the right to harvest oysters in Galveston Bay has reignited - this time because of recent floods.

Oysters need salty water. The bay has a lot of fresh water, as rivers that feed into it continue at flood stage.

Prestige Oysters of San Leon claims it is trying to relocate the mollusks from their current leased oyster beds to better waters.

In its way, it claims, is STORM, which stands for Sustainable Texas Oyster Resource Management.

Several years ago, the Anahuac-basec company was awarded a lease to 23,000 acres in the bay, given by the Chambers County Navigation District.

STORM claims its competitors are intruding on its leased land, of which less than a 1,000 acres is producing acres. It has plans to build up the remainder into oyster beds.

Prestige Oysters of San Leon accused STORM of harassing its boats.

"At the end of the day, we'll protect our lease," said Raz Halitit. "This is Texas, and we own the right to our lease."

Tracy Woody of STORM argues that his county-issued lease trumps those issued by the state. A Texas Parks and Wildlife letter to the company states the Texas Constitution prevails, and that it's the agency's opinions that the company does not have the right to exclude persons or companies holding state leases from the property.

Woody takes the opposite view, claiming that his lease prevails. He also says his company is investing millions to create reefs with the stated goal of creating sustainable oyster crops.

The issue is headed to court at some point, with both sides working on lawsuits involving public land put to private use, beneath the water. null
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