Oyster season is almost upon us, but it looks like a lot of the state waters won't actually be open when the public oystering season starts on November 1.
On Thursday afternoon the Texas Department of State Health Services issued a release stating that Christmas Bay and parts of Galveston Bay will be open for harvesting oysters, clams and mussels but the rest of the Texas waters will be closed until further notice.
Why? Well, for one thing red tide algae has been found in Texas waters from Matagorda Bay to South Padre Island. Red tide algae is a toxic algae bloom that tends to grow in warm, salty waters. Even once the red tide algae bloom has passed the toxins emitted by the algae can show up in shellfish weeks or even months later. If you eat oysters laced with the toxin you can get neurotoxic shellfish poisoning which shows up as nausea, dizziness, dilated pupils and tingling sensations in the extremities.
The other issue that has closed oystering areas is all of the rain we've had recently. The rainwater gets into the bays and leaves oysters more prone to being contaminated with bacteria and viruses that translate to a lot of pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Doesn't sound fun does it?
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So, between the rainwater and the red tide, most of the waters on the Texas coast will remain closed until testing from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows that the oystering waters are free and clear of contamination. Meanwhile, the commercial oystermen who don't have private leases will have to stick to working the reefs in Christmas Bay and parts of Galveston Bay that the state is planning to open. Those two bays are going to be awfully crowded until the rest of the bays open up. Hopefully it'll happen sooner rather than later.