Texas oyster fisherman says he was forced out of work, so restaurant prices could be impacted

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On Dec. 13, 2021, Texas Parks and Wildlife temporarily closed oyster-harvest areas in Galveston Bay, Matagorda Bay, and San Antonio Bay. The move, which the department said was due to a variety of environmental concerns, had a major impact on the oyster harvest season in Texas, which runs from Nov. 1 to April 30.

"It's devastating," said oyster fisherman John Jurisich, who started the Facebook group Save Texas Fishermen. "I've spent my whole life building this for my family."

Texas Parks and Wildlife issued the following statement as a result of the closures:

"The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department welcomes interaction and feedback from all community members and businesses regarding the management of oysters in Texas. We recognize oysters play a uniquely important ecological and economic role. Our goal is to find a balance between these roles by protecting ecosystems while allowing for sustainable fisheries and coastal communities to thrive. Our management strategies use the best available science to ensure Texas' oyster populations remain healthy and viable into the future."

In addition to these closures, Texas Parks and Wildlife held three public hearings Thursday evening.

The discussion was centered around the permanent closure of oyster harvesting in three areas near Rockport: Carlos Bay, Mesquite Bay, and Ayres Bay.

Jurisich said that area has seen a lot of activity this year, as a result of being open for business.

Texas Parks and Wildlife said the events of the last three months have nothing to do with the potential closures, rather they're based on decades of science, data, and analysis.

"The reason behind this is the ecologically-important reef that we find in this Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bay area," said a spokesperson for the department.

A spokesperson also said the public hearings wouldn't be taking questions on any issues other than the topics surrounding those three bays.

"I feel like they made up their minds already," said Jurisich. "Our voice should be heard."

Could these issues make oysters more expensive at your favorite seafood restaurant?

The Jurisich family also owns Gilhooley's in San Leon.

"So far we have not raised the price," said Frances Jurisich, John's wife and the daughter of an oyster fisherman. "Even though we're seeing that we may have to."

Frances said the coming months are when things could get tougher for customers. They're currently sourcing most of their oysters from Louisiana, something they usually don't do while the Texas season is taking place. As a result, she's not sure how expensive or scarce oysters could become as the year progresses.

"We don't know what the summer will be like," she said.

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