Olympia Oyster Restoration
The Olympia oyster (Ostreola conchaphila) is the native oyster of the Pacific coast of the US. Due to habitat loss and overfishing, the populations of this oyster are a fraction of what they were 150 years ago. One small but robust population of Olympia oysters is located in Discovery Bay. Scattered individual Olympias can be found in other bays in Jefferson County.
The MRC has been working for almost 10 years to protect the Discovery Bay population and restore Olympia oysters to local waters. In the early years, our work included surveys, educational outreach and monitoring studies in Discovery Bay.
In 2013, the MRC began a 1/2-acre habitat enhancement project in Discovery Bay near to the extant population. The extant population was doing well, but had not expanded much due to limited availability of suitable substrate (especially oyster shells) in the area. In August 2014 volunteers dispersed clean Pacific oyster shells (not seeded with oyster spat) onto ¼ acre of tide flats nearby. We wanted to test the effects of a ecological ‘light touch’ by aiming for an initial shell density of only 2-3 shells/sq ft. Larvae released from the nearby population settled on this shell in 2015 and 2016. Additional shell was added to the project site in 2016 to replace what had been moved from the project site by the tides. MRC volunteers were thrilled to see how well the Olympias have established on some of the clean shell we put out just 2 years ago. Thank you to Taylor Shellfish for donation of all the shell!
In 2016, the MRC worked with WDFW and Tribal shellfish biologists to establish new test plots in Quilcene Bay. Here, where there is no high-density, established Olympia oyster population, we are "planting" seeded cultch (Pacific oyster shell with newly settled Olympia oyster spat already on it) in one small area of the bay to see if they survive and grow. 11 bags of wild-seeded cultch donated by Taylor Shellfish was added in 2016, with another 50 bags from Puget Sound Restoration Fund scheduled for placement in spring 2017. We'll be monitoring these test plots annually.
Beginning in 2007, the MRC monitored the population in Discovery Bay, recording information about geographic location, estimated numbers of individuals, size distribution, age, and larval settlement.
Partnering with WDFW, Beachwatchers, Shore Stewards and others, the Jefferson MRC also conducted presence/absence surveys beaches in Eastern Jefferson County. Below is a quick video showing how to identify Olympia oysters and how the surveys were conducted. Additional information can be found at the Puget Sound Restoration Fund web site.
Related: Read the Discovery Bay Olympia Oyster Research Project 2010 Field Season Summary Report found in the Northwest Straits Resource Library