The Gulf of Mexico: The Blue Heart of Texas
Hear how thoughtful conservation can protect the Gulf of Mexico's fragile natural systems.
The Lone Star State boasts 367 miles of biologically diverse Gulf of Mexico coastline, a number that jumps to more than 3,000 once bays, lagoons and estuaries are included. Eighteen coastal counties are home to a full quarter of our state’s population and the Gulf supports seven of the top 10 shipping ports in the country; in fact, the Port of Houston and the Port of South Louisiana are two of the busiest sea ports in the world. In addition to economic, recreational and tourism benefits, the Texas coast provides critical stopover and nesting sites for threatened and endangered birds, sand dunes where sea turtles bury their eggs and some of the most important fish and shellfish nurseries habitat in the Gulf. Its estuaries and bays sustain a complex food chain for a variety of species and the barrier islands and coastal wetlands that dot the coastal landscape provide natural protection from storms.
But overfishing, incompatible energy production, pollution and rapid development threaten this incredible resource. The Conservancy is working with partners to create protected networks, reduce the impacts of destructive and unsustainable fishing, protect and restore coastal ecosystems, and apply conservation easement agreements – a highly successful conservation strategy used on land — to coastal and ocean resources.
One of our most important Gulf projects is the Half Moon Reef oyster reef restoration project, one of the largest restoration projects of its kind in the kind. Oyster reefs are incredibly important—they allow oyster colonies to grow and thrive, provide habitat for a variety of marine life and improve water quality. But they are also the most endangered marine habitat in the world, and the Gulf of Mexico is one of the last places on earth where oyster reefs are still salvageable.
We have also spearheaded a seagrass protection project along the Laguna Madre, a shallow bay that separates mainland Texas from Padre Island. The Conservancy has installed a series of navigational markers throughout the northern Laguna Madre to direct boating traffic along pre-marked routes and away from valuable seagrass beds. Healthy seagrass helps prevent erosion and buffer waves during driving storms; it also serves as critical habitat for larval-stage marine life, as well as food and refuge for many types of sea life.
Meanwhile, our Shamrock Island Preserve in Corpus Christi Bay provides habitat to 16 different bird species, including the state threatened reddish egret and white-faced ibis. Since acquiring the Shamrock Island Preserve, we have worked with local businesses to implement a habitat restoration and protection program to reverse some of the effects of oil and gas extraction.
Check out some of the work we’re doing to protect marine land in Texas: