You’d be hard-pressed to find a harder working body of water than the Gulf of Mexico. That vast blue sea touched by five American states produces a huge majority of the seafood Americans eat, including 67 percent of our oysters. It produces more than one third of the domestic oil we use. It supports one of the nation’s largest recreational and tourism industries—to the tune of $20 billion a year and more than 600,000 jobs. 24 million Americans depend directly on the Gulf for their livelihoods.
Sadly, the Gulf is in trouble. Even before the horrific oil spill of 2010, the natural features of the Gulf, systems like oyster reefs, wetlands, and seagrass beds, were in decline. Those systems are the foundation of life in the Gulf’s waters and are critical to sustaining the overall health of a body of water that provides so many benefits to us.
Since its inception in 1964, The Nature Conservancy of Texas has had an eye on the Gulf, and today has several preserves and projects in place to protect it. Our Gulf conservation strategy combines land purchases, prevention programs and large-scale restoration projects that together are helping stem the tide of loss and destruction.
The Conservancy owns five preserves along the Texas coast that combined protect more than 15,000 acres of habitat for countless species of birds and animals. We have also contributed thousands of acres to expand state and federal parks and wildlife refuges along the coast.
Since 2008, we’ve been working in coastal waters to rebuild damaged or lost oyster reefs—perhaps the Gulf’s most dangerously imperiled natural feature in Texas. The planned Half Moon Reef construction project will build on past success to create a 12-acre living reef, making it the largest coastal reconstruction project in Texas history. These and other reefs will help restore and sustain a species that contributes more than $50 million to our state’s economy each year.
Along the Coastal Bend near Corpus Christi, our seagrass protection project informs boaters about the harm propellers do to these important underwater systems. Segrass serves as a nursery for shrimp and shellfish, as well as prized recreational sportfish like speckled sea trout and red drum.
June 21, 2011