Comments on Buzan et al. Positive Relationships between Fresh Water Inflow and Oyster Abundance in Galveston Bay, Texas
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Buzan et al. critique Turner's (Estuaries and Coasts 29:345-352, 2006) analysis of the relationship between freshwater inflow and oyster productivity in the Gulf of Mexico, using 16 years of fisheries-independent data for Galveston Bay. They conclude that the catch-per-unit effort (CPUE; number h-1) of marketable oysters increase 1 to 2 years after years with increased freshwater inflows, and they express concerns that water supply managers may mis-apply the results of Turner (Estuaries and Coasts 29:345-352, 2006) to justify a reduced freshwater inflow to Galveston Bay. I find no relationship between the CPUE of oyster spat or marketable oyster density and the commercial harvest, but do find a strong inverse relationship between harvest and river discharge in Galveston Bay. There are three possible factors that may explain why the annual variations in the fisheries-independent data are not coherent with the annual variations in commercial harvest: variable levels of water quality, inconsistent fishing effort, and the fact that the fisheries-independent data are not prorated for the area of the reefs actually fished. I concur, completely, with the apprehension that reductions in freshwater inflow will be implemented without examining the full set of assumptions and consequences, and thereby compromise estuarine ecosystem quality, and perhaps permanently, before mistakes can be seen or reversed.