Galveston Bay, our state's largest estuary with a watershed that stretches all the way to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is an economic driver for numerous industries, has just received its annual report card from the Galveston Bay Foundation, in collaboration with the Houston Advanced Research Center and the Houston Endowment. And, folks, it's not so great. The overall health of the bay received only a C on its report card, meaning it's "adequate for now," but will not be getting that McDonald's happy meal as promised by Mom earlier this week. Instead, the bay faces huge issues including habitat decline, ongoing Dioxin pollution, and the ramifications of climate change and storms like Hurricane Harvey.
While you can head to galvbaygrade.org for a complete report, including individual grades regarding species of wildlife, types of habitat, and even the water pH, here are some main takeaways.
- A lack of regularly-updated data (from federal entities) about our resources—especially two very important ones: oyster reefs and freshwater wetlands (the last data collected on wetlands was in 201o, for instance)—remains a large challenge in understanding the health of Galveston Bay and determining a comprehensive plan for preservation.
- There are still major issues with dioxin and sediments around the ship channel.
- Invasive species, including armored catfish, feral hogs and Chinese Tallow, are all up in our watershed, particularly on bayous, including Buffalo Bayou, which spells trouble for our native wildlife.
- Blue crab is on the decline, and potentially caused by hundreds of abandoned crab traps in the bay, and potentially the loss of seagrass habitat that allow crabs to grow from juvenile to adult and enter the fishery (which is how their numbers are tracked).
- Waterway trash is still a big issue, and experts don’t understand all of the factors contributing to the problem, but numerous organization are trying to development an action plan at this time.
- Seafood consumption safety remains a concern, especially in fishery areas near rivers and bayous.
- There are numerous organizations taking up the cause of protecting Galveston Bay.
- Pollution (aside from Dioxin), including metals and other toxins, is improving overall.
- Oil spills have been declining since 2003.
- Water quality, relating to nutrients and levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and dissolved oxygen, continue to show good grades.
- There are continued improvements concerning bacteria in our bayous.
How to Help
The point of the report card is to draw attention to the health of the bay, and get more people on board to impact the longterm health of the bay. So how can we all work to improve the health of the bay?
- Download the Galveston Bay Action Network app, which you can use to record pollution when you see it — take pictures, describe what you see and submit a report, which will automatically be redirected to the correct entity.
- Follow these 61 tips—from picking up after your pet to switching to organic lawncare products, for starters.
Volunteer your time. Upcoming opportunities include:
- The Texas Adopt-a-Beach 2018 Coastwide Fall Cleanup heads to numerous area beaches on Saturday, September 15.
- Marsh Mania has established some 211 acres of marsh over the last 20 years simply from volunteers planting grass. It happens this fall (date TBD), and, FYI, it will get muddy.
- Texas's annual 10-day crab trap removal program takes place every February. Volunteers have been known to collectively pull out 400+ abandoned crab traps in a day, which are culprits in our decline of blue crabs and also the destroyer of many a boat propeller.