Proposed Oyster Resource & Recovery Center Will Provide Oyster Aquaculture Training and Workforce Development
The proposed Oyster Resource and Recovery Center, a $5.1 million workforce development award from the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and managed by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC), will provide training to those interested in oyster aquaculture. Additional funding for the project could be made available soon. The job training will contribute to sustainable oyster production in coastal states, particularly in Texas, where oyster fisheries have been in decline.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to provide oyster aquaculture training to those interested in learning about the industry and helping to develop a strong workforce in this emerging Texas industry,” said Greg Stunz, Ph.D., Interim Executive Director at HRI. “Oyster aquaculture not only has the potential to boost our Texas economy, but sustainable oyster management will provide a variety of ecosystem services to the Texas Coastal Bend and other coastal states.”
Oysters serve as a major economic driver for coastal communities in Texas, serve as valuable habitat for sportfish, remove nitrogen and carbon from coastal waters, and help stabilize shorelines. Unfortunately, due to catastrophic events in recent years including major hurricanes, large oil spills, and variability in rainfall, yields from the Texas oyster fishery have been historically unpredictable. Through managed oyster aquaculture, oyster growth and development can become more sustainable, providing valuable ecosystem and economic services to communities.
Oyster aquaculture is a new industry to Texas thanks to the passage of recent legislation. Signed into law in 2019, the first permit for oyster aquaculture in Texas was issued by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 2021. The Oyster Resource and Recovery Center plans to train local stakeholders in oyster aquaculture and help develop a strong workforce within the industry.
The Oyster Resource and Recovery Center will consist of a virtual training facility and will provide workshops in business development, preparation of oyster hatcheries and farm management, as well as development of undergraduate, graduate, and non-academic workforce internship programs with TAMU-CC and other academic institutions.
While the aquaculture training will be managed primarily by HRI, the center will rely upon valuable collaboration across the TAMU-CC campus, including the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center within the College of Business, and the Office of Research Engagement. Curriculum will be developed into multiple modules that can either be stacked or studied independently depending upon the area of study a person plans to pursue. Each module will contain in-depth education with eight to 10-hour lessons. The Business Innovation Center staff will provide workshops that help with the development of market plans, guidance regarding accounting for farms and businesses, and more.
Currently, the Oyster Resource and Recovery Center is hiring for a Project Manager that will be responsible for the center’s day-to-day operations. More positions will be made available soon and those interested in applying are encouraged to check the TAMU-CC career website for new postings.
To learn more about HRI’s oyster conservation work, visit TXOysters.org.