Texas Surf Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that collaborates across disciplines and industries to solve shared problems that jeopardize the environmental health of marine habitats in the Coastal Bend.
The Conservancy raises money through grant awards, private donations, and sponsorships from community events.
In the fall of 2022 Texas Surf Museum shut its doors as a cultural arts space and transitioned into a new nonprofit organization, Texas Surf Conservancy, focused on marine conservation. Our transition is bittersweet. While we will miss seeing everyone in the gallery, we are grateful to be able to respond to relevant and timely issues that threaten Texas’ beaches and coastal habitats. Our long history of working with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Texas General Land Office (GLO), and many other science and conservation groups, provides a solid foundation for the Conservancy to begin this new and exciting chapter of its existence.
The Texas Surf Conservancy is a proud partner on the Sink Your Shucks™ oyster shell recycling program run by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (HRI). Sink Your Shucks™ reclaims shucked oyster shells from local restaurants, so they can be returned to local bays through HRI's greater oyster reef restoration efforts. The shell collected provides both substrate to form new reefs and habitat for fish, crabs, and other organisms.
Sink Your Shucks™ was the first oyster shell recycling program in Texas, founded in 2009. To date, the initiative has reclaimed almost 3 million pounds of shucked oyster shells, which has led to the restoration of almost 45 acres of oyster reef habitat throughout the Mission-Aransas Estuary. Multiple times a week, HRI staff collect shucked shells from partner restaurants and deposit them at a quarantine and collection site that is located on land generously donated by the Port of Corpus Christi. After the shells are quarantined, HRI places the shell at predetermined wild oyster reef restoration sites and HRI researchers actively study the effectiveness and longevity of these restoration projects.
Oysters are an important ecological and economic resource, but oyster reefs, once dominant habitats in estuaries worldwide, have experienced greater losses than any other marine habitat. It is estimated that up to 90% of oyster reef habitats have been lost, compared to historic abundance. The dredging method used by wild oyster harvesters removes oysters as well as their shells, the critical building blocks of the reef. Dredged shell is rarely returned to the bay. Instead, this important resource often ends up in the landfill as trash. Sink Your Shucks™ works to solve this problem, recycling shucked oyster shells from restaurants and putting them back into local bays where they are needed most, to restore and enhance degraded reefs.
If you are interested in supporting the program, either by donation or as a partner restaurant, please email the Sink Your Shucks™ Coordinator Mike Osier at email@example.com.
Learn more about Sink Your Shucks™ and other local oyster conservation efforts from HRI:
In 2023, guest host Dr. Jennifer Pollack, HRI’s Endowed Chair for Coastal Conservation and Restoration, talks with Brad Lomax, the founder of Corpus Christi’s Water Street Restaurants and Texas’ first permitted oyster farmer on an episode of HRI's The Gulf Stream podcast. They discuss the Sink Your Shucks™ Oyster Recycling Program, oyster farming, and the state of Texas oyster reefs and conservation efforts.
In partnership with Texas Oyster Ranch, the Conservancy is a proud participant in the National Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN), a program run by NOAA and made up of a community-based network of volunteers who monitor marine phytoplankton and harmful algal blooms (HABs). PMN recognizes the interrelationships between humans and coastal ecosystems while providing volunteer citizen scientists with meaningful opportunities for hands-on science engagement. The PMN enhances the Nation’s ability to respond to and manage the growing threat posed by HABs, like Red Tide, by collecting important data for species composition and distribution in coastal waters and creating working relationships between volunteers and professional marine biotoxin researchers.
Twice a month, Conservancy staff collects water samples from the Ranch’s oyster farm on Copano Bay to look for HABs, using a state-of-the-art microscope donated by NOAA. The Conservancy and the Ranch provide NOAA with valuable data to help track how the burgeoning oyster mariculture industry in Texas interacts with the microbiome of the state’s bays and estuaries.
Since 2001 PMN volunteers have discovered over 500 blooms throughout the coastal United States and have generated over 480,000 observations of environmental conditions. Volunteer data is directly incorporated into the state HAB monitoring plains of Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. HAB managers of other states are notified of potential blooms by PMN staff directly.
Harmful algal blooms impact the coastal economy on average $82 million a year. Because every coastal state suffers HABs the problem is too much for any one agency. The National Phytoplankton Monitoring Network collects ecological data at low taxpayer expense in 36 states and territories. This is a true “citizen science” program that combines expertise from NOAA, state and federal agencies, and industry with the energy of volunteers from schools, universities and civic groups.
Charitable contributions of any size are greatly appreciated, and 100% tax-deductible. Your gift will support healthy beaches and marine habitats in the Coastal Bend.
For more information about donations and in-kind giving, contact Brad Lomax. (firstname.lastname@example.org)