For the first time, the Texas Coastline has received a grade for its overall health. For the past couple of years, about 40-50 marine scientists that specialize in birds, water quality, seagrass, oysters and fisheries came together at the Harte Research Institute to determine a health report for the Texas coast and the Gulf of Mexico. This project was built on stakeholder values established during the EcoHealth Metrics Project, a partnership between Harte Research Institute, Harwell Gentile and Associates, and the University of Mayrland Center for Environmental Science.
“And we sat down and devised a mechanism to score the various parts of the coast,” says the Director of HRI, Dr. Larry McKinney. Dr. McKinney broke down the five categories that made up the report card of the Texas Coast. Marine scientists had to look at things like; the abundance of oysters, the coverage of seagrasses, fisheries (brown shrimp, black drum, spotted seatrout, red drum), birds (lesser sandpiper, piping plover, lesser scaup, forster’s term, greater egret, mottled duck), and water quality specifically looking at salinity, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll.
After determining the common factors that make up the health of the Texas Coast, Dr. McKinney says a B- was the correct score to give.
“People moving in to the Texas coast, the growth of industry, we’ve had hurricanes, we’ve had redtides and all those types of things going on, a lot of bad news going on about the Texas coast,” says McKinney. “But when you look at it objectively it’s not in bad shape, B- is a pretty good score.”
As for regions throughout the coastline, the Corpus Christi area is known as the Mid Coast and was given a grade B. “Fisheries in our part of the Coastal Bend is in really good shape, oysters and seagrass are holding their own. And water quality and birds are in good shape as well.”
Dr. McKinney explains that the Texas Coast is like a rubber-band that is resilient and can bounce back. He says he hopes that it continues to bounce back in the future. But to make sure that the coast can keep up a high grade, he says, “ordinary people can do a lot of things, one, is just take care of your plastic and your trash. Don’t throw them in the gulf. Water pollution, don’t over fertilize your lawn and those types of things. There’s all types of things we as individuals can do living on the coast and takes care of the environment around them.”
To find more information on the Texas report card, you can go to harteresearchinstitute.org.