Houston Matters

A 300-ton pile of oyster shells and a unique plan to restore reefs along Galveston Bay

We learn why a Houston-area oyster company and a local restaurant are working to restore an oyster reef that they can’t harvest.

An estimated 300-ton pile of oyster shells stored on the grounds of Pier 6 Seafood in San Leon that will be used to restore an oyster reef damaged during Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media
An estimated 300-ton pile of oyster shells stored on the grounds of Pier 6 Seafood in San Leon that will be used to restore an oyster reef damaged during Hurricane Ike in 2008.

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When Hurricane Ike slammed Galveston in 2008, among the structures that were damaged were some you can't see: underwater oyster reefs.

While there have been efforts to restore oyster reefs along the Texas coast over the years by government agencies and nonprofits, one such effort in San Leon is different in that involves a for-profit oyster company working to help restore a reef it will not be able to harvest from.

A selection of raw and grilled oysters from Pier 6 Seafood in San Leon.
Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media
A selection of raw and grilled oysters from Pier 6 Seafood in San Leon.

In the audio above, Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty talks with Lisa Halili, the vice president of Prestige Oysters and founder of the San Leon Oyster Fest.

Since 2020, Halili has been collecting oyster shells discarded from the restaurant her son runs, Pier 6 Seafood. In a lot adjacent to the restaurant sit some 300 tons of shells in a giant pile. In the spring, they’ll be dumped offshore just a few hundred yards from Pier 6 to create an attractive new surface for young oysters to attach to and grow on, in what is being named Rett Reef.

Joining Halili in the conversation are Laura Picariello with Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M University and Kathy Sweezey of The Nature Conservancy.

Kathy Sweezey of The Nature Conservancy, Lisa Halili of Prestige Oysters, and Laura Picariello of Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M, pose near the site of Rett Reef.
Kathy Sweezey of The Nature Conservancy, Lisa Halili of Prestige Oysters, and Laura Picariello of Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M, pose near the site of Rett Reef.