Galveston Bay is home to a wide variety of animals that play an important role in the ecosystems. Shellfish, finfish, and bird populations are monitored to help determine the Bay’s health. Wildlife surveys conducted around Galveston Bay since 2003 indicate that most finfish and bird populations appear to be maintaining, while many shellfish populations have been declining and require action to prevent further losses. These declines could impact other species that depend on shellfish as a food source and as ecosystem engineers.Learn More
What We Can do
Trends in shrimp and crab populations are good indicators of the quality and quantity of suitable habitat, as well as of food availability. Blue crabs and two species of shrimp (brown and white) are analyzed for the report card. Blue crab populations in Galveston Bay continue to be in a state of decline, however, brown and white shrimp have maintained their population levels. Overall, shellfish earned a D grade, down from a C last year. Eastern oysters are a dominant bivalve in Galveston Bay that are addressed in the Habitat section of the Report Card. Oyster populations and the reef habitats that they create in Galveston Bay have been negatively impacted by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the drought of 2011, Hurricane Ike in 2008 and increased fishing pressure.
What We Can do
Help Keep the System Balanced
- Conserve water to protect freshwater inflows.
- Volunteer to remove lost or abandoned crab traps.
- Learn more about the decline in blue crab populations.
Galveston Bay Shellfish
More than 100 species of finfish can be found in the Galveston Bay ecosystem. Finfish are also the base of a significant recreational fishery. Surveys of finfish indicate that most populations have been consistent since 2003, earning finfish a C. Populations of eleven species analyzed are maintaining and earned Cs, while gafftopsail catfish earned grade of B for the second year.
Galveston Bay Finfish
Love fishing? Let's ensure our grandchildren can enjoy this sport in the bay as well
Birds depend on high-quality nesting and feeding habitat to thrive, making them an excellent indicator of the Bay’s health. After near extinction in the 1960s, the brown pelican population in Galveston Bay has rebounded due to a reduction in the use of harmful pesticides such as DDT . Since 2003, most bird populations have been holding steady, earning birds a C. Notable exceptions include a decline in black-crowned night heron, a moderate increase in laughing gull populations and significant increase in populations of brown pelican.
Galveston Bay Bird
Exotic species are species of plants, animals and microorganisms that are transported to the Galveston Bay Watershed from other parts of the world. These exotic species did not evolve here and therefor, lack the predators, parasites and diseases that keep their populations under control in their native ranges. Exotic species are recognized as being invasive when they cause negative ecological, economic or social impacts in their new home.
Invasive species are harmful to natural systems and some (such as the zebra mussel) are destructive to infrastructure. Invasive species are often very difficult and expensive to control and can damage crops, fisheries, habitats such as coastal prairies, forests and other resources. Invasive plants can choke streams and waterways and cause forest fires to burn hotter while invasive fish can burrow into streambanks, causing water quality issues.
As of 2017, more than 100 species of invasive plants and animals have been found in the Galveston Bay watershed. Reports of new invasive species found in Galveston Bay since 2002 continue to remain low and no invasive species have become established in the Bay, yielding a B grade. The rivers and bayous, however, earned a grade of D as there are multiple invasive species that have become established and are causing problems in our wetland prairies, forests and waterways. Invasive species commonly found in the region include water hyacinth, privet, Chinese tallow, fire ants, feral hogs, armored catfish and zebra mussel—which was reported in Lake Livingston in 2016. The majority (75%) of invasive species found around Galveston Bay are terrestrial plants.
What We Can do
If you don’t know it, don’t grow it
- Select native plants for your landscaping needs. Native plants also use less water and provide habitat for wildlife, including pollinators.
- Remove invasive species from property, gear, equipment, boats, and trailers (clean, drain and dry).
- Never release or dispose of unwanted plants or animals into the local environment.
- Join a local invasive species removal effort or citizen scientist program
- Carefully choose animals that you bring home as pets and follow all exotic animal regulations. Obtain as much information as possible about potential pets to ensure that you can accommodate their adult size and traits (such as aggressive behavior). Never release unwanted fish, birds, mammals or reptiles into the environment.
Galveston Bay Invasive Species
Rivers and Bayous Invasive Species