New Program Offers Free Online Training for Oyster Farming Industry

Press Release
Texas oyster farm drone photo

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Oyster Resource and Recovery Center (ORRC) at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is a workforce development initiative funded by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality. New this summer, the ORRC has launched an online platform to provide free courses to those interested in oyster farming, a new industry in Texas with a strong demand for a trained labor force. Designed to be easily accessible and self-paced, the courses contribute to an industry that will aim to support sustainable year-round oyster production in coastal states, particularly Texas, where oyster fisheries have been in decline due to harvest pressure, environmental stressors, and disease. The online program is the first of its kind in the state and was made in consultation with key industry stakeholders. A Spanish-language version of the program will roll out in the coming months.

“This program is going to kickstart the oyster farming industry in Texas and provide training for the next generation of oystermen and women,” said Ellis Chapman, ORRC Program Manager. “By fostering a trained workforce through these courses, we aim to stabilize and grow oyster populations, ultimately benefiting both the ecosystem and economy in Texas’ coastal regions.”

Oysters serve as a major economic driver for coastal communities in Texas, as they are a valuable habitat for sportfish, remove nitrogen and carbon from coastal waters, and help stabilize shorelines. Unfortunately, due to recent events including major hurricanes, pollution, and variability in rainfall, yields from the Texas oyster fishery have been historically unpredictable. Through managed oyster aquaculture, oyster populations can become more sustainable and provide valuable ecosystem and economic services to communities.

With the passing of legislation in 2019, Texas became the last coastal state in the U.S. to allow oyster farming. The first oyster farm permit was issued in 2021 and oyster farming is quickly becoming an up-and-coming industry in Texas.

 “This program is important for Texas because it will allow future farmers to learn how to set up, operate, and maintain an oyster farm for years to come,” said David Aparicio, owner of DJ’s Oyster Company in Palacios, Texas, the third permitted oyster farm in Texas.

The new program includes three courses: Oyster Hatchery, Oyster Farming, and Business Development. Other services offered by the ORRC include paid work experience opportunities on an oyster farm or in an oyster hatchery for a limited number of individuals upon completion of the online courses and bi-annual oyster farming education workshops. The website also features an interactive map showing locations of current Texas oyster farms as well as Texas restaurants that serve fresh Texas-farmed oysters.

This project was paid for [in part] with federal funding from the Department of the Treasury through the State of Texas under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act). The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the State of Texas or Department of the Treasury.