Nestled amidst the vibrant saltmarshes of coastal Texas, Turtle Creek Aquaculture is growing sustainable redfish, or red drum, for American markets. Using outdoor ponds, this family-owned and operated farm prioritizes raising fish in harmony with the local environment.
Owner Nasir Kureshy got his start in aquaculture pursuing his master’s degree at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi and worked on a number of farms, both domestically and internationally, before purchasing his 126-acre property on Matagorda Bay in 2008. Turtle Creek Aquaculture’s farm has grown steadily over the years. It now sells redfish to wholesale markets, as well as directly to restaurants.
For healthy fish ponds you first need healthy wetlands. Salt marshes bolster resilience to climate change by trapping and storing carbon, providing refuge for wild fisheries, and acting as a buffer to coastal erosion and storm events. Wetlands also help Turtle Creek’s fish ponds by filtering water naturally—one of the reasons they are partnering with Matagorda Bay Foundation on saltmarsh restoration.
“On our farm, we have built and are building wetlands to treat our water as well as to grow plants for constructed wetlands in other areas,” said Kureshy. “We strive to enhance the natural environment around us, our ecosystem, as we are so dependent upon it. And of course, wetland marshes are the most efficient ecosystems at sequestering carbon.”
Farming Fish in Our Changing Climate
In our changing climate, severe weather is becoming increasingly frequent and severe—and aquaculture growers are often on the front lines. While hurricanes are not unexpected in coastal Texas, cold snaps and heat waves are increasingly becoming a threat.
Extreme temperatures are dangerous for fish farms. Redfish are vulnerable to temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer heat can cause oxygen levels to drop in the ponds, making it difficult for fish to breathe. When severe temperatures strike, Turtle Creek pumps in well water to keep the ponds from getting too cold or warm. Developing climate-resilient adaptations are necessary to keep aquaculture growers producing sustainable, domestic seafood.
From Tide to Table
“We are a family-owned and operated farm, and we take great pride in the fish we produce. I would like for all consumers of our fish to know where it comes from,” said Kureshy.
When Turtle Creek sells their fish directly to restaurants, it’s labeled as Texas-grown redfish, informing consumers that it’s grown under strict health and environmental regulations in the United States. However, when they sell to wholesalers, it’s distributed to grocery stores and restaurants without a label. Kureshy wants everyone eating their fish to know where it comes from and the benefits, both health and environmental, of sustainable aquaculture.
Aquaculture Fun Fact
Redfish can have the one classic dot on the tail, or they can be spotted like leopards!
Recipe: Redfish “on the Half Shell”
Redfish on the half shell is a classic preparation. “Half shell” means that the fish is filled with skin-on, like oysters on the shell.
- Redfish filets with the skin on
- Butter or olive oil (or both mixed together)
- Fresh garlic, minced
- Mince fresh garlic and combine with olive oil or butter.
- Take redfish filets, skin on, and bake or grill skin side down.
- Baste with olive oil/garlic and butter.
- Cook the fish until it flakes—don’t overcook!
- Enjoy! It can be served with the skin on, as the meat can be scooped out with a fork.
Sustainable Seafood from Tide to Table
The Tide to Table series profiles members of the aquaculture community who provide valuable jobs and increase access to fresh, sustainably sourced American seafood. Aquaculture is more than seafood production. It is about ecosystem stewardship, coastal communities, and economic opportunities.