New Program Offers Free Online Training for Oyster Farming Industry

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Oyster Resource and Recovery Center (ORRC) at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is a workforce development initiative funded by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality. New this summer, the ORRC has launched an online platform to provide free courses to those interested in oyster farming, a new industry in Texas with a strong demand for a trained labor force. Designed to be easily accessible and self-paced, the courses contribute to an industry that will aim to support sustainable year-round oyster production in coastal states, particularly Texas, where oyster fisheries have been in decline due to harvest pressure, environmental stressors, and disease. The online program is the first of its kind in the state and was made in consultation with key industry stakeholders. A Spanish-language version of the program will roll out in the coming months.

“This program is going to kickstart the oyster farming industry in Texas and provide training for the next generation of oystermen and women,” said Ellis Chapman, ORRC Program Manager. “By fostering a trained workforce through these courses, we aim to stabilize and grow oyster populations, ultimately benefiting both the ecosystem and economy in Texas’ coastal regions.”

Oysters serve as a major economic driver for coastal communities in Texas, as they are a valuable habitat for sportfish, remove nitrogen and carbon from coastal waters, and help stabilize shorelines. Unfortunately, due to recent events including major hurricanes, pollution, and variability in rainfall, yields from the Texas oyster fishery have been historically unpredictable. Through managed oyster aquaculture, oyster populations can become more sustainable and provide valuable ecosystem and economic services to communities.

With the passing of legislation in 2019, Texas became the last coastal state in the U.S. to allow oyster farming. The first oyster farm permit was issued in 2021 and oyster farming is quickly becoming an up-and-coming industry in Texas.

“This program is important for Texas because it will allow future farmers to learn how to set up, operate, and maintain an oyster farm for years to come,” said David Aparicio, owner of DJ’s Oyster Company in Palacios, Texas, the third permitted oyster farm in Texas.

The new program includes three courses: Oyster Hatchery, Oyster Farming, and Business Development. Other services offered by the ORRC include paid work experience opportunities on an oyster farm or in an oyster hatchery for a limited number of individuals upon completion of the online courses and bi-annual oyster farming education workshops. The website also features an interactive map showing locations of current Texas oyster farms as well as Texas restaurants that serve fresh Texas-farmed oysters.

Visit the New Site

Texas Aquaculture Association Executive Director Position Available

The TAA is seeking an Executive Director to oversee the administration and operation of the organization. Duties will include managing the TAA’s business affairs, executing Board-directed imperatives, building, and managing association membership, and outreach and advocacy through a variety of means and in a variety of venues. Target position starting date January 2025.

  • The position is currently being executed on a remote, part time basis, however a remote, full-time position will be considered based on the growth potential and merits to the association.
  • Salary commensurate with experience and qualifications.
  • Please refer to the job description.
  • To be considered for this position, interested candidates must submit a cover letter with qualifications and why they are interested in the position along with a current resume and email to [email protected] . Review of applications will begin on June 1, 2024, and continue until the position is filled.

Aquaculture Workshop Agenda

Overcoming Barriers to Expanding Aquaculture in Texas


Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi,

University Center, 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, TX 78412


Workshop Goals:

  • Characterize the status of aquaculture at the state and national levels.
  • Identify actions that facilitate responsible expansion in terms of policy or legislation.
  • Develop a strategy for educating and training an aquaculture workforce.
  • Identify priorities for research, technology, and market development.


Expected Outcome: A roadmap leading to sustainable expansion of aquaculture in Texas.


Monday January 22, 2024


8:00     Registration



8:30     Welcome and Opening Remarks    

Ahmed Mahdy, Vice-President for Research, Texas A&M Corpus Christi

Janet Donaldson, Associate Vice President for Research, Texas A&M Corpus Christi

Jim Ekstrom, President, Ekstrom Aquaculture, LLC

Penny Riggs, Associate Professor, Texas A&M University


8:45     Status of Texas Aquaculture

Fritz Jaenike, Executive Director, Texas Aquaculture Association


9:15     Status of U.S. Aquaculture

Sebastian Belle, Executive Director, Maine Aquaculture Association


Session 1 – Opportunities


9:45     Opportunities for Offshore Aquaculture

Ken Riley, Chief, Science Branch, NOAA Fisheries


10:15   Opportunities for Shellfish Aquaculture

Chris Hollenbeck, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M AgriLife Research


10:45   Break


11:00   Aquaponics

Joe Masabni, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension


11:30   Species of Interest

            Todd Sink, Associate Professor, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension


12:00   Lunch                                                                                                                                    

Kent Satterlee, Executive Director, Gulf Offshore Research Institute & CEO, Blue Silo Aquaculture


1:00   Development of Aquaculture Markets

Lindy Zaleski, H-E-B Seafood Procurement – Business Development Manager


1:30     Aquaculture Research and Technology Transfer

Caird Rexroad, National Program Leader for Aquaculture, USDA Agricultural Research Service


Session 2 – Challenges


2:00     Responsible Growth/Engaging NGOs/Social License

Sebastian Belle, Executive Director, Maine Aquaculture Association


2:30    Meeting Regulatory Requirements for US Aquaculture

Carole Engle, Owner, Engle-Stone Aquatic$


3:00   Break (15 min)


3:15    Aquaculture Economics and Marketing Priorities

Shraddha Hegde, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University


3:45     Investing in Aquaculture

Max Holtzman, Principal, Ocean14 Capital


4:15     Labor and Workforce Development

Christian Brayden, Project Manager, Maine Aquaculture Association



5:00     Texas Aquaculture Association Business Meeting (Optional)



7:00     Dinner – El Camino restaurant, 314 N Chaparral Street, Corpus Christi, TX 78401, catered by Water Street Oyster Bar

Brad Lomax, Owner, Water Street Oyster Bar




Tuesday January 23, 2024


Session 2 – Challenges (continued)



8:00     Barriers to expansion of Catfish/Redfish/Hybrid Striped Bass- research &

            technology needs

            Todd Sink (moderator), Mark Kubecka (Homegrown Seafood), Jim Ekstrom (Ekstrom Aquaculture), Shane Nicaud (Gulf States Aquaculture), Chase Holub (Holub Fish LLC), Darrell Bowers (5B Farms)


8:30     Generating State and Federal Level Support

Paul Zajicek, Executive Director, National Aquaculture Association


9:00     Water Rights/ Land Availability & Cost and Long-term Sustainability

Jim Ekstrom (Ekstrom Aquaculture)


9:30     Aquaculture Extension Panel

Todd Sink (moderator), Mario Marquez (Aquaculture Specialist, Texas Sea Grant), Michael Schwarz (Director, Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center), Jimmy Avery (Extension Professor & USDA SRAC Director, Mississippi State University), Dennis McIntosh (Professor and Extension Specialist, Delaware State University)


10:30   break                                           


Session 3 – Solutions


10:45   Seafood Processing Discussion – Any needs/limitations?  Opportunities?

            Penny Riggs (moderator)


11:00   Breakout Groups – Working Discussions

Attendees will form small groups centered around workshop goals.

What did we miss, what changes are needed?

What are the barriers, what are the solutions to outline in the roadmap?


12:00   Working Lunch – Summarize and Close

            Breakout sessions will continue into lunch. Groups will report


2:00     Tours – Texas A&M AgriLife oyster research facility and TPWD fish hatchery or

            Texas Oyster Company.


4:00     Tours Conclude





Wednesday January 24, 2024


8:00 – 3:00 Optional Farm Tours (weather permitting)– Fish Farms and PMAR Shellfish     

                   Research Facility, Palacios, TX

Bowers & Saha redfish and Hybrid Stiped Bass farms and Palacios Marine Agriculture Research Facility.


Texas Redfish Rodeo October 7th, 2023

Attention fisherfolks, Cajun food and music lovers!

Gulf States Aquaculture in Palacios, Texas is having a fishing tournament at their redfish farm on October 7th which will benefit the Texas Aquaculture Association among other organizations. The Texas Aquaculture Association Secretary, Shane Nicaud has gone to a lot of work to organize a fun event and is now signing up anglers. Please sign up and spread the word!!

This event will not only benefit the association, but it will call attention to aquaculture farms in Texas. See the details here: .

There are still opportunities available to help in setting up, running, and cleaning up after the event. Contact Shane Nicaud to see how you can participate at [email protected].

Thank you and see you there!



TAA Update July 2023

The Texas Aquaculture Association was active during the 2023 Texas Legislative Session and sponsored two bills to address long-standing issues which have been priorities for producers and lake managers. The first bill wasHB 1333, which continued theeffort started with HB 3568 during the 2021 Legislative Session to remove unnecessary and redundant labeling and licensing requirements by TexasParks & wildlife for buyers of protected fish raised by Texas producers. In addition, the legislation changed TPWD rules governing the use of largemouth bass and crappie harvested for management purposes, allowing them to be used for restocking by managers rather than having to be euthanized.

TAA also sponsored HB 2271, which specifically added aquaculture to the list of agricultural activities protected under the Texas Right to Farm Act.The Act protects farmers from lawsuits that typically happen when neighbors object tothe sights, sounds, smells or other “nuisances” created by agricultural activities. Both bills were carried by Rep. Kacal in theHouse and Sen. Kolkhorst in the Senate, and both passed the legislature and were signed into law by the Governor. TAA owes a debt of gratitude to Rep. Kacal and Sen. Kolkhorst for their support of our industry.

During Christmas of 2022, Winter storm Elliot resulted in more freezing temperatures across southern Texas which again caused mass mortalities for redfish producers. Fortunately, producers were able to apply for disaster protection coverage under the USDA Farm Service Agency Emergency Livestock and Honey Bee Program (ELAP). The TAA again assisted in procuring market price assessments to help producers file factual and accurate claims with the FSA. Unfortunately, as of thiswriting, the settlement payments are stillunder review by FSA. TAA will continue to assist producers until they receive appropriate payments under the ELAP program.

TAA members are participating in a steering committee for a NOAA sponsored workshop entitled “Overcoming Barriers to Expanding Aquaculture in Texas”.This workshop will take place in conjunction with the annual TAA meeting during January 22-23, 2024. The workshop will feature several notable speakers, and along with the networking, fun and fellowship will be well worth the time to attend.

The TAA website is being revamped to meet the needs of existing and prospective TAA members as well as those seeking information, interaction and services provided by TAA members. New website features will showcase producer and supplier listings that are on the TAA availability list. The new 2023/2024 availability list will be updated during July and August, and renewals as well as new members are currently being pursued.

Sometimes it’s not apparent how important producer-based trade associations are until there is a need. The activities above showcase the need for advocacy and how successful an association can be when its members get involved. TAA’s continued success depends on you, so if you are a current member, please renew your membership and consider increasing the level of your support. If you are not a member, but have an interest in supporting Texas aquaculture, please visit and sign up, or call me at (956) 494-3868 to learn why you should be amember.

Thank you,

Fritz Jaenike
[email protected]