Habitat Importance and Losses

John Blaha

Habitat is defined as an area that provides the food, water, cover and space that a living organism needs to survive and reproduce. This definition found on GulfBase.org describes what every one of us looks for when we target our desired sport fishes up and down the Texas coast. We know by our own fishing experience that fish need food, obviously water, and that they use cover and space to lie in ambush for their next meal and also to evade predators that may be after them. Habitat is the key to continued sustainability of Texas's coastal resources and we must strive to protect, restore and create the vital habitats needed for a healthy fishery.

The loss of marine habitat throughout the world is staggering - 20% of coral reefs, 35% of mangroves, 50% of wetlands and 85% of oyster reefs have been lost in the last 50 to 100 years. These numbers are known for developed countries only and leave many questions for undeveloped countries where the losses could be even greater. In Texas alone, it is estimated that over one-third of approximately one million acres of coastal marshes may have been lost between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s.

Natural events take a toll. During Hurricane Ike, oyster reefs in Galveston Bay sustained major damage from tidal surge and deposition of sediment. Losses are believed to be near 50% in general and close to 80% in some places. Further south, oyster reefs in Texas' middle coast bays struggle from reduced freshwater inflow and over-fishing. Losses caused by natural events such as hurricane and drought cannot be controlled, however they are amplified through increases in residential, commercial, agriculture and other development along the coast. Other contributing factors are over-fishing, pollution and in some cases hypoxia. Playing in concert, these forces not only affect the ecosystems, they also affect local economies and the way of life for many.

The loss of essential habitat all across the Gulf of Mexico region is a reality and CCA Texas and CCA in the other Gulf States is working to help stem the tide of the daily destruction of habitat. CCA Texas initiated HTFT (Habitat Today for Fish Tomorrow) in November of 2008 to help protect, restore and create critical habitat in our Texas coastal waters. By working with other conservation organizations, academia, state agencies and private and public corporations, HTFT hopes to accelerate its efforts in the protection, enhancement and restoration of Texas' coastal habitat.

HTFT currently has an active role in the establishment of nearshore reefs in Texas state waters, the restoration of lost marshes in Aransas Bay, West Galveston Bay and Nueces Bay and past participation in projects such as the Bahia Grande restoration in the Rio Grande Valley. The loss of oyster reefs is also on the forefront for HTFT and the organization is currently investigating how it can put its best foot forward to help restore these vital habitats.

Moving forward into 2010, volunteer involvement, sponsors and supporters are more important than ever as CCA Texas HTFT works to raise funds and support to complete these projects. Dollars raised in Texas stay in Texas for the benefit of all Texas recreational fishermen so be sure to check CCATexas.org for upcoming events and banquets where you can step in and help make a difference.

Other Conservation News

Belaire Environmental recently completed the planting of marsh grasses in the eastern cell of the Goose Island State Park marsh restoration project. CCA Texas provided $25,000 to complete this portion of the job. This planting, along with the fall 2009 volunteer planting day sponsored by CCA Texas and TPWD, has completed the planting in this cell and TPWD is now tackling the western cell of the project. When finished, this project will have restored twenty four acres of lost marsh and estuary habitat.

Upcoming events

March 4th

– Bay Area Chapter Annual Banquet Bay Area Community Center, Clear Lake
–Corpus Christi Chapter Annual Banquet American Bank Center, Selena Auditorium
–Sabine-Neches Chapter Annual Banquet IBEW, Beaumont

March 11th
–Brazos Valley Chapter Annual Banquet Brazos Center, Bryan

March 20th
Crab Trap Cleanup various sites on the Texas coast

March 25th
Brazoria County Chapter Annual Banquet Civic Center, Lake Jackson
–Colorado Valley Chapter Annual Banquet Knight of Columbus, LaGrange
–Texas A&M Chapter Annual Banquet Brazos Center, Bryan