Sun rises in Matagorda Bay.
Half Moon Reef: Sun rises in Matagorda Bay. © Jerod Foster


New Study Reveals Reef's $1.2 Million Economic Impact

Matagorda Bay

A new Nature Conservancy study highlights the sizable economic impact and environmental success of the recently completed restoration of the 54-acre Half Moon Reef project in Matagorda Bay.

From August 2015 to January 2016 the Conservancy, working with Texas Sea Grant, surveyed anglers and fishing guides to determine the social and economic benefits of increased recreational fishing in Matagorda Bay due to the habitat restoration at Half Moon Reef. The results found that increased recreational fishing at Half Moon Reef added $691,000 to Texas’ gross domestic product each year, and generated an additional $1.273 million in annual economic activity in the Matagorda Bay area. 

“We knew the fishing was good there and a lot of charters were taking their clients to the reef,” said Bink Grimes, a Matagorda Bay charter boat captain. “To see this kind of impact is not surprising at all. Half Moon is one of the best places to fish anywhere on the Gulf. The difference between fishing Half Moon now and even two years ago is incredible.” 

Half Moon Reef is a cornerstone of The Nature Conservancy’s restoration efforts along the Gulf of Mexico. In 1905, the reef measured as much as 500 acres, but by the late 20th century dredging, overharvesting and changes in the amount of water entering Matagorda Bay had rendered it functionally extinct. In 2013 the Conservancy partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas General Land Office, Texas A&M University and private foundations on a multi-year project to restore the reef. Using the project as a guide, The Nature Conservancy is ambitiously spearheading three new large scale oyster habitat restoration projects in the Gulf: the construction of a 40-acre oyster reef in Texas’ Galveston Bay, a 12-acre reef in Florida’s Pensacola Bay, and a 45-acre reef in Copano Bay, north of Corpus Christi, Texas. 

“The results of our study show that Half Moon Reef is tremendously popular with anglers in Matagorda Bay. The anglers and guides that we surveyed believe that the fishing at Half Moon Reef is excellent. In fact, no one that we surveyed was dissatisfied with their trips to Half Moon Reef,” said Dr. Stuart Carlton, healthy coastal ecosystems and social science specialist at Texas Sea Grant. “Both recreational anglers and fishing guides strongly agreed that the Texas coast needs more restoration projects like Half Moon Reef and that environmental restoration projects like Half Moon Reef are critical to the future of the Texas coast.” 

“Half Moon Reef continues to be an astonishing success story,” said Mark Dumesnil, associate director of coastal restoration in Texas. “While we cannot restore the Gulf ecosystem to exactly the way it was 100 or more years ago, it is both entirely feasible and highly desirable to rebuild and sustain the Gulf’s natural features in ways that benefit the region’s environment and economy.” 

The restoration effort has been an economic, social, and environmental success: 

  • 94% of anglers surveyed reported that the restored habitat at Half Moon Reef offers a more satisfying experience than other fishing locations.
  • Biomass, which helps measure the level of sea life in and around Half Moon Reef, is 1,014% greater on the reef than on the adjacent bay bottom.
  • Half Moon Reef has created a dozen new jobs and $465,000 in annual labor income.
  • Fishing guides booked 268 more guide trips per year due to the habitat restoration at Half Moon reef, a 10.5% increase in trips. 

“The success of Half Moon Reef has created a blueprint for coastal restoration across the region and proven that investments in habitat restoration can be great for nature and people,” said Dr. Christine Shepard, director of science for The Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program.  


The Nature Conservancy partnered with Texas Sea Grant to calculate survey results for both private boat (non-guided fishing trips) and charter (guided) fishing trips. The survey investigated four issues:

1. Angler awareness of the Half Moon Reef restoration.
2. Angler use of and satisfaction with the Half Moon Reef restoration.
3. Demographics and motivations of Half Moon Reef anglers.
4. The economic and social impacts of the Half Moon Reef restoration. 

Four hundred anglers took part in the in-person interviews; 357 of them (89%) fished from private vessels. Seventy-three fishing guides participated in the online survey.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.