Human Health Risks Summary

In the early 1970s, the Clean Water Act set a national goal for the country’s bodies of water to be swimmable and fishable. While much of Galveston Bay’s seafood is safe to eat, a long history of toxic contamination in the Bay has led to seafood consumption advisories for some species in certain areas. Human activities have also led to recurring high levels of bacteria, especially in the streams and bayous that flow to Galveston Bay. High bacteria levels have also triggered restrictions on oyster harvesting and primary contact recreation.

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What We Can do

Seafood Consumption

Galveston Bay’s commercial seafood fishery is the most productive of all the bays in Texas, contributing more than 40% of the Texas annual commercial harvest. While Seafood Consumption Advisories for fish captured in the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay do exist in some areas, the vast majority of seafood harvested from the Bay is safe to eat.  Toxic contaminants enter the Bay’s food web through biomagnification. Additionally, bacteria can be found in shellfish such as oysters, making raw or partially cooked shellfish a risk for people with compromised immune systems. As is the case in many estuaries around the US, seafood harvested commercially and recreationally from Galveston Bay can be enjoyed by many. It is important to learn about risk factors, especially for children, pregnant and nursing mothers, and people with existing health issues.

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Seafood Consumption Safety

Don't assume that all seafood from Galveston Bay is unsafe to eat

Seafood Consumption Advisories

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What We Can do

Watch What You Eat


Galveston Bay Seafood Consumption Advisories


Rivers and Bayous Grade


Many of our region’s bayous have little natural flow. That means that the water that you see in area bayous originates as rainfall runoff from the land and discharges from wastewater treatment plants. With the high number of people, livestock, and pets living in the area, and an aging sewage infrastructure, bacteria and viruses from humans and other warm-blooded animals can cause illness and infection in  those who come into contact with infected water.

In 2017, bacteria concentrations exceeded screening levels in 7 percent of samples collected from Galveston Bay, indicating that the risk of bacterial infection while swimming in the open waters of the Bay remained low, yielding the grade of an A. Additionally, the rivers, streams and bayous received a grade of B for the second year in a row. Of the 25 watersheds included in the Report Card, six watersheds saw some improvement compared to last year’s grades. Nine watersheds saw no change, while four watersheds (Armand-Taylor Bayou, Cedar Bayou, Clear Creek, and Houston Ship Channel) degraded. A number of watersheds received A’s. However, swimming in certain rivers, streams, and bayous upstream from Galveston Bay may be discouraged, as 35 percent of samples collected in these urban and suburban areas still exceeded screening levels in 2017. Check the map of High Swim Risk Watersheds below.

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High Swim Risk Waterways

Where is it safest to swim?

Bacteria in Water

What’s the risk in your watershed?

What We Can do

Keep Galveston Bay Fun


Galveston Bay Water Recreation Safety


Galveston Bay Rivers and Bayous

Want more? Check the grades on other Indicators.

Water Quality
Pollution Events & Sources
Human Health Risk
Coastal Change