Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 206–212 | Cite as

Positive Relationship between Freshwater Inflow and Oyster Abundance in Galveston Bay, Texas

  • David Buzan
  • Wen Lee
  • Jan Culbertson
  • Nathan Kuhn
  • Lance Robinson
Technical Communication


Analysis of fisheries-independent data for Galveston Bay, Texas, USA, since 1985 shows eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) frequently demonstrate increased abundance of market-sized oysters 1 to 2 years after years with increased freshwater inflow and decreased salinity. These analyses are compared to Turner’s (Estuaries and Coasts 29:345–352, 2006) study using 3-year running averages of oyster commercial harvest since 1950 in Galveston Bay. Turner’s results indicated an inverse relationship between freshwater inflow and commercial harvest with low harvest during years of high inflow and increased harvest during low flow years. Oyster populations may experience mass mortalities during extended periods of high inflow when low salinities are sustained. Conversely, oyster populations may be decimated during prolonged episodes of low flow when conditions favor oyster predators, parasites, and diseases with higher salinity optima. Turner’s (Estuaries and Coasts 29:345–352, 2006) analysis was motivated by a proposed project in a basin with abundant freshwater where the goal of the project was to substantially increase freshwater flow to the estuary in order to increase oyster harvest. We have the opposite concern that oysters will be harmed by projects that reduce flow, increase salinity, and increase the duration of higher salinity periods in a basin with increasing demand for limited freshwater. Turner’s study and our analysis reflect different aspects of the complex, important relationships between freshwater inflow, salinity, and oysters.


Freshwater inflow Oyster productivity Oyster landings Galveston Bay 


  1. Bergquist, D.C., J.A. Hale, P. Baker, and S.M. Baker. 2006. Development of ecosystem indicators for the Suwannee River estuary: Oyster reef habitat quality along a salinity gradient. Estuaries and Coasts 29: 353–360.Google Scholar
  2. Coen, L.D., M.W. Luckenbach, and D.L. Breitburg. 1999. The role of oyster reefs as essential fish habitat: a review of current knowledge and some new perspectives. American Fisheries Society Symposium 22: 438–454.Google Scholar
  3. Hofstetter, R.P. 1977. Trends in population levels of the American oyster Crassostrea virginica Gmelin on public reefs in Galveston Bay, Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries Division Technical Series No. 24, 90 pages.Google Scholar
  4. Hofstetter, R.P. 1988. Trends in the Galveston Bay oyster fishery, 1979–1984. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries Division Management Data Series Number 125. 36 pp.Google Scholar
  5. Keck, R.D., D. Mauer, J.C. Kaver, and W.A. Sheppard. 1971. Chemical stimulants affecting larval settlement in the American oyster. Proceedings of the National Shellfish Association 61: 24–28.Google Scholar
  6. La Peyre, M.K., A.D. Nickens, A.K. Volety, G.S. Tolley, and J.F. La Peyre. 2003. Environmental significance of freshets in reducing Perkinsus marinus infections in eastern oysters Crassostrea virginica: Potential management applications. Marine Ecology Progress Series 248: 165–176. doi:10.3354/meps248165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Meyer, D.L., and E.C. Townsend. 2000. Faunal utilization of created intertidal eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) reefs in the southeastern United States. Estuaries 23: 34–45. doi:10.2307/1353223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Montagna, P., and Kalke. 1995. Ecology of infaunal mollusca in South Texas estuaries. American Malacological Bulletin 11: 163–175.Google Scholar
  9. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2007. Fisheries Statistics. Commercial Fisheries. Annual Commercial Landing Statistics for Eastern Oyster for the Chesapeake Region.
  10. Pierce, M.E., and J.T. Conover. 1954. A study of the growth of oysters under different ecological conditions in Great Pond. Abstracts of Papers Presented at the Marine Biological Laboratory. The Biological Bulletin, Woods Hole 1072: 318.Google Scholar
  11. Powell, E.N., J.M. Klinck, E.E. Hofmann, and M.A. McManus. 2003. Influence of water allocation and freshwater inflow on oyster production: A hydrodynamic-oyster population model for Galveston Bay, Texas, USA. Environmental Management 31: 100–121. doi:10.1007/s00267-002-2695-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Quast, W.D., M.A. Johns, D.E. Pitts, Jr., G.C. Matlock, and J.E. Clark. 1988. Texas Oyster Fishery Management Plan. Fishery Management Plan Series Number 1. Source Document. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, TX. 178 pp.Google Scholar
  13. Ray, S. M. 1987. Salinity requirements of the American oyster, Crassostrea virginica. In: Freshwater Inflow Needs of the Matagorda Bay System with Focus on Penaeid Shrimp. NOAA Technical Memorandum, NMFS-SEFC-189, Galveston, Texas.Google Scholar
  14. Rodney, W.S., and K.T. Paynter. 2006. Comparisons of macrofaunal assemblages on restored and non-restored oyster reefs in mesohaline regions of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 335: 39–51. doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2006.02.017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Texas General Land Office. 2006. Internet. Available from Accessed September 1, 2006.
  16. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 2002. Marine resource monitoring operations manual. 104. Austin: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.Google Scholar
  17. Texas Water Development Board. 2006. Water for Texas 2007. Volume I. Austin, TX.Google Scholar
  18. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 2006a. Marine resource monitoring program: Coastal fisheries database. Austin, TexasGoogle Scholar
  19. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 2006b. Unpublished data on commercial oyster landings.Google Scholar
  20. Texas Water Development Board. 2007a. In Trinity-San Jacinto Estuary Freshwater Inflows (Galveston Bay).
  21. Texas Water Development Board. 2007b. In Coastal Hydrology, Basin Wide Inflow Summary for Galveston Bay.
  22. Turner, R.E. 2006. Will lowering estuarine salinity increase Gulf of Mexico oyster landings. Estuaries and Coasts 29: 345–352.Google Scholar
  23. Wilber, D.H. 1992. Associations between freshwater inflows and oyster productivity in Apalachicola Bay, Florida. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 35: 179–190. doi:10.1016/S0272-7714(05)80112-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Zimmerman, R., T. Minello, T. Baumer, and M. Castiglione. 1989. Oyster reef as habitat for estuarine macrofauna. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFC-249.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Buzan
    • 1
  • Wen Lee
    • 2
  • Jan Culbertson
    • 3
  • Nathan Kuhn
    • 2
  • Lance Robinson
    • 3
  1. 1.PBS&JAustinUSA
  2. 2.Texas Parks and Wildlife DepartmentAustinUSA
  3. 3.Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Dickinson Marine LabDickinsonUSA

Personalised recommendations