;shermen pursued ;ounder and trout, while commercial ;sheries
harvested Gulf shrimp. Just below the water’s surface, however, a
less picturesque scene had unfolded. Ravaged by time and natural
disasters, the bay’s Half Moon Reef, which once spanned 400 acres
(162 hectares), had gradually dwindled away to nothing.
As the reef disappeared, so did the ecologically vital oysters
that lived on it. A single oyster ;lters 40 to 60 gallons (151 to 227
liters) of water each day.
In 2008, ;e Nature Conservancy launched a six-year program
to re-create nearly 60 acres ( 24 hectares) of oyster reef in the bay. It would be the
largest reef-reconstruction initiative the not-for-pro;t environmental organization had attempted—and one of the largest in U.S. history.
“;e conservancy has historically done a lot of work on land. Over the past 10
years, we’ve been looking at marine and freshwater systems as pieces of nature’s
machine that we need to pay attention to as well,” says John S.C. Herron, ;e
Nature Conservancy’s director of Texas conservation and science, Austin,
Texas. “We’ve got seven major bay systems on the Texas coast, and everything
is linked to everything else. We need our bays and estuaries good and healthy
for a functioning ecosystem. ;at’s where the oysters come in.”
At one time, the Matagorda reef had a veneer of live, water-;ltrating oys-
ters atop at least six feet ( 1. 8 meters) of dead shell. ;e once-thriving reef also
provided shelter for other reef-dependent invertebrates and acted as a feeding
ground for bigger ;sh, supporting biodiversity and the ;shing community.
In addition, the structure guarded against erosion and served as a ;rst line of
defense against tidal waves from storms and hurricanes.
With its US$5.4 million Half Moon Reef restoration program, ;e Nature
Conservancy hoped to lay a literal foundation for a new reef that may naturally
grow to the hundreds of acres that once graced the area.
BAY OFF THE
“We need our bays
and estuaries good and
healthy for a functioning
ecosystem. That’s where
the oysters come in.”
—John S.C. Herron, The Nature Conservancy,
Austin, Texas, USA