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Bill Rodney [00:00:00] I like to eat oysters as much as the next guy. And I know that the dredging, it's not, it's not too beneficial to the reefs to have these heavy iron-toothed dredges dragged over them. And the oyster reefs are still incredibly resilient to that, as long as it's not too much. And for a while there, it was getting to be too much.

Bill Rodney [00:00:29] We had meetings with the oyster industry folks, and they knew something had to be done too. They were, they were basically coming to us and saying we got to do something. And so we all got together and we agreed on taking some measures.

Bill Rodney [00:00:42] And one of the measures was that we would start sampling some of these oyster-producing areas. And when, when our sampling saw that there were not enough market-sized oysters and lots of sub market-sized oysters, that we would close down some of these areas.

Bill Rodney [00:01:01] And we set up a system. Basically, it was Christine Jensen here at the DML, the Dickinson Marine Laboratory, who found this method, where we have what we call the "stoplight method", whereas when the data says that there's not enough large oysters and lots of small ones that will be killed by the, by the fishing activity, we'll close down the area until subsequent sampling says it's ready to be reopened. So that's the green light.

Bill Rodney [00:01:33] Certain indicators or thresholds, once they're crossed, it's a red light. We shut the area down. And then once we get a new threshold to reopen, we reopen. That's the green light. So that's the stoplight method.

Bill Rodney [00:01:45] So that was one of the things we came up with in our meetings with the industry folks, and I think it's helped. Although it has been hard on them, it just turned out that we all agreed on this method. And then suddenly, by our own rules that we all agreed on, we had to shut down lots of areas of the Bay, Galveston Bay in particular.

Bill Rodney [00:02:05] And what that did is it shifted the fishing pressure down the coast to other smaller bays, and then they started seeing some pretty bad impacts. And then those places started getting shut down. And then the fleets were, were starting to go into, you know, environmentally sensitive, shallow, small sub-bays and impacting those areas.

Bill Rodney [00:02:26] And eventually there had to be some legislation that made those areas off-limits. But this legislation also made a 300-foot wide buffer along the margins of all, all Texas bays off-limits to oyster dredging.

Bill Rodney [00:02:42] So now we have basically these sanctuaries that are now going to allow oysters to develop with no fishing pressure, and then these will become oyster larvae factories, which will help produce larvae for the areas that do get fished.

Bill Rodney [00:02:58] And that's a sort of a new strategy we're adopting, not just through that legislation, but in some of our restoration projects. We're starting to build in unharvestable, what we call "brood stock reefs" or "brood stock sanctuary reefs", where there'll be a dense population of large larvae-producing oysters, which will export their larvae to nearby fished reefs to help them bounce back after the fishing season closes.