Opinion: Oysters under siege

A story in last week’s Chronicle highlighted a depressing truth about Galveston Bay (“Oil spills occur nearly daily,” Page A1, April 7). The bay has experienced an average of 285 oil spills a year since 1998, according to Houston Advanced Research Center. These dismal numbers make us wonder how it continues to be the most productive and commercially valuable bay and estuary system in Texas. Part of the answer lies in nature’s defenses to pollution. No surprise that these defenses are under stress.
 
In the past 60 years, more than 35,000 coastal marshes have disappeared for many reasons including subsidence. West Bay has lost nearly 90 percent of its underwater sea grasses during that same period.
 
These marshes and grasses are skilled at absorbing and trapping pollutants before they reach estuaries and fragile waterways. But it is the bay’s most versatile natural defense, the oyster, that we want to focus on.
 
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