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EasternOyster_ReefProfile_Robinson_Lance_AustinTX_10January2022_Reel4087.mp3

Lance Robinson [00:00:00] We're fortunate, I think, in Texas, in the sense that in the, in Sabine Lake, which is up Texas / Louisiana border, that border water there, there hasn't been any commercial harvest of oysters in Sabine Lake since the early 1960s.

Lance Robinson [00:00:16] So for all practical purposes, and we looked, and I think we couldn't find any evidence anywhere in the country of a bay system that had not been exposed to commercial oyster harvest of any kind.

Lance Robinson [00:00:31] And so Sabine Lake probably represents the only unfished, if you will, if you're going to talk about nothing has been fished on it since the early '60s, anywhere in the country.

Lance Robinson [00:00:43] And so we've gone in there and we share that water with the state of Louisiana. And there have been a number of incidences where Louisiana and the commercial industry there want to open up the Louisiana side of Sabine Lake to oyster harvest. They have not done so up to this point. And and hopefully that won't happen because I think it's a unique, it's a unique habitat up there that we can learn a lot from by looking at.

Lance Robinson [00:01:09] But one of the things that really jumps to mind: when we were doing side-scan sonar, mapping the reefs up in Sabine Lake, one of the things that jumped out at us immediately is the vertical profile of these reefs. These reefs extend 8 to 10 feet off the bottom, up into the water column.

Lance Robinson [00:01:27] That's not surprising. Oysters, when you think about how oysters grow: they settle, the juveniles settle on top, usually of existing oysters, and they just grow on top of those and they just keep growing vertically. And in fact, oyster reefs in the Chesapeake (they have much deeper water there), it's not uncommon to have reefs in the Chesapeake that are 20 feet tall, off the bottom.

Lance Robinson [00:01:46] So for these shallow coastal bays that, that we deal with in the Gulf Coast, having one that extends up 8 feet off the bottom is, you know, unprecedented.

Lance Robinson [00:01:56] And so if left to their own accord, no fishing pressure, that's what you would expect to see these oyster reefs look like, everywhere along the coast. They're going to have vertical, three-dimensional profile on them, and they're going to stick up above the bay bottom a lot more.

Lance Robinson [00:02:11] In fact, you can look back historically, before the mechanical dredges became involved with oyster harvest in Texas, and there was a lot of stories about landowners running cattle across Galveston Bay, and they would drive the cattle across the oyster reefs, except when they crossed a little section where the Ship Channel was, and then they would get back up on the reefs and they were up near the surface. I mean, the cattle could walk across these reefs. And so reefs have been that been that high profile in Texas in the past.

Lance Robinson [00:02:42] So, but what has happened over the time with fishing is that they have been graded down, if you will - drug down. So they're, they're very, very low relief. I mean, you're talking inches above the surrounding sediment or mud bottoms.