Safety & Environment
The Matagorda Bay Pilots protect the second largest estuarine system in Texas by providing safe passage for vessels transiting the Matagorda Ship Channel and its navigable waters.
Ecosystem & Biodiversity
Matagorda Bay’s diverse habitats include seagrass beds, tidal flats, marshes, and oyster reefs. The Matagorda Bay is known for its diverse and dynamic ecosystem, which supports crucial breeding, feeding, and sheltering grounds for a wide range of species.
Vegetation: Salt marshes and seagrass beds are vital habitats for many species and help stabilize the shoreline.
Oyster Reefs: Matagorda Bay’s oyster reefs not only support oyster populations but also serve as habitat for other species and contribute to water quality by filtering water.
Fish: Matagorda Bay is home to numerous fish species, including redfish, speckled trout, flounder, sheepshead, black drum, and more. These species support both commercial and recreational fishing activities.
Birds: The bay is an important stopover point for migratory birds. Species such as roseate spoonbills, herons, egrets, shorebirds, and waterfowl can be found in the bay’s wetlands and marshes.
Crustaceans: Blue crabs and brown shrimp are common in the bay and are important commercially harvested species.
Marine Mammals: Bottlenose dolphins are frequently spotted in the bay’s waters.
Recognized as the most important rookery in the Matagorda/San Antonio Bay area, it was named after Chester Smith, the first Audubon Coastal Warden of the Island. The sanctuary was constructed in 1962 utilizing dredge spoils created from the original Matagorda Ship Channel. Mr. Smith and Audubon Texas are celebrated for the recovery of the Brown Pelican on the island which was removed from the endangered species list in 2009. Today, Chester Island provides a habitat to over twenty-seven waterbird species providing a safe place to nest before transiting across the Gulf of Mexico.