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23,000-Acre Galveston Bay Oyster Lease Voided

Many Galveston Bay fishermen are relieved after judge’s ruling.

This year's Texas legislative session ended without addressing an ongoing dispute over oyster reefs in Galveston Bay. Now some oystermen say they're being harassed by a company that claims to have exclusive rights over a large part of the bay's reefs.

A judge Wednesday voided a controversial lease that privatized 23,000 acres of the Galveston Bay. Oyster company Sustainable Texas Oyster Resource Management (STORM), had put a halt on any fishing in the area without their permission.

The ruling is good news for Jure Slabic, President of Gulf Coast Oysters. He’s one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against STORM.

“Today was a huge battle that was won, not just for private oyster lease holders; all recreational and sports fishermen, commercial fishermen and all citizens of the state of Texas,” says Slabic. “A priceless resource was saved today thanks to the ruling of Judge (Lonnie) Cox.”

The judge ruled the original lease issued by Chambers County was at odds with state regulations.

Tracy Woody with STORM objects to the ruling. In a statement he says, “We will continue to maintain that the rights of property owners must be protected. We feel that the law is clear in its protection of these rights that all owners of property should enjoy.  The State cannot lease to others what it does not own.  Our lease and our rights come from the rightful owner of the property.  We welcome the opportunity to clarify that these long and well established principles still apply today.”

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