PSRF works to rebuild Olympia oyster populations and the structured habitat they provide in their developed and persistent assemblages. We focus our efforts on 19 priority waterbodies throughout Puget Sound identified in Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s (WDFW) updated Olympia oyster Stock Rebuilding Plan. Our work with partners on the ground and research conducted in the field and at our conservation hatchery broadly support WDFW’s Olympia oyster recovery efforts. We are also pleased to be active members of NOOC – the Native Olympia Oyster Collaborative.
Our goal is to re-establish self-sustaining native oyster beds to provide filtration and structured habitat for a diverse community of organisms.
Pollution, over-harvest and habitat loss caused the numbers of Olys to plummet over the last 70 years.
The Olympia Oyster was once an icon of Washington state. Tasty beyond compare, Olympia oysters keep our estuaries clean they filter water. One of PSRF's core commitments is to continue to restore Olympia oyster habitat throughout Puget Sound. Read more about our 10-year, 100 acre goal.
To thrive, native oysters propagate in expanses of biogenic habitat commonly referred to as “oyster beds.”
Due to commercial exploitation of rich intertidal deposits of native oysters, large natural beds of those oysters are nearly gone. Today, less than 4% of historic core populations remain in Puget Sound. Native oyster beds occur where physical conditions are amenable to the formation of habitat structure. To learn more about the rich history of the Olympia oyster and its connection to Puget Sound, click below for to read more about the book "The Living Shore" by friend of PSRF, Rowan Jacobsen.
Pacific oyster shells help re-establish Olympia oyster habitat and, ultimately, populations.
PSRF partners with tribes, industry, government, scientists, and community groups to enhance tide flats by spreading numerous acres of Pacific oyster shell. Shell provides structure for settlement of larval Olympia oysters. It turns out, Olys love the rough, craggy surface Pacific oyster shell provides. We spray shell from barges throughout priority areas in Puget Sound. Take a moment and watch just how we do it.
A powerful natural filtration system and a local food source. What more could you want?
Historically, Tribes in our region sited villages near large beds of Olympia oysters, and harvest of Olys supported a strong industry in South Puget Sound. Olys filter seawater to extract and feed on phytoplankton, providing a natural system to keep waters clean. PSRF is connected to the history of this unique food source while enhancing our ecosystem. Watch this video excerpt from the documentary "Common Ground" depicting the much-needed filtration oysters provide in time-lapse.
Our goal is to continue to build living oyster bed habitat in priority waters.
In 2017, PSRF completed a native oyster restoration project in Port Gamble Bay, where we produced 1.2 million oysters and restored 10-acres of habitat. We spread 1,500 yards of Pacific oyster shell along the shoreline at tidal elevations that will support native oyster communities in the long-term. To date, PSRF and partners have restored 67 acres of oyster habitat. Our work would be impossible without financial support. Please consider helping us continue this vital restoration work.
10-year, 100-acre goal
The restoration methods we’ve developed and refined are yielding positive results like 10 acres of shell enhancement in Liberty Bay (right). By the end of 2019, we will have completed 84 acres of habitat enhancements in priority locations throughout Puget Sound. Restoration efforts are underway in many of the Sound’s remaining 19 priority areas with the participation of many tideland owners, continued interest of the press, and generous support from a throng of partners.
Port Gamble Bay Project
Our efforts to provide oyster settlement structure have been a success in Port Gamble Bay. Through this 6-year restoration project, funded by the Washington Department of Ecology, we enhanced settlement structure and produced 1.2 million oysters to build the stock of Olympia oysters throughout the Bay. Watch this video to learn more.
- A Variety of Approaches for Incorporating Community Outreach and Education in Oyster Reef Restoration Projects: Examples from the United States. DeAngelis et al., 2019. In: Smaal A., Ferreira J., Grant J., Petersen J., Strand Ø. (eds) Goods and Services of Marine Bivalves. Springer, Cham
- A guide to Olympia oyster restoration and conservation: Environmental conditions and sites that support sustainable populations. Wasson, K. et al., 2015.
- Native Olympia Oyster Collaborative (NOOC) webpage and storymap
- Northwest Straits Commission Olympia oyster restoration webpage
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Plan for Rebuilding Olympia Oyster (Ostrea lurida) Populations in Puget Sound with a Historical and Contemporary Overview. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2012
- Reestablishing Olympia oyster populations in Puget Sound, Washington. Washington Sea Grant, 2005
- Native oysters make comeback, thrive again in Puget Sound. United Press International, 2020.
- Northwest Oystermania. PBS, Mossback’s Northwest, 2020.
- Climate Change Was Killing Northwest Oysters. Growers and Scientists Fought Back. Bitterroot, 2019
- Olympia Oysters making a comeback in Disco Bay. Port Townsend Leader, 2019.
- The tiny but mighty Olympia oyster regains a foothold in Washington waters. The Seattle Times, Pacific NW Magazine, 2019
- Native Olympia oysters expected to gain a new foothold in Sinclair Inlet. Kitsap Sun, 2019
- Return of a native: Olympia oysters are making a comeback. Encyclopedia of Puget Sound, 2019
- 3 tons of oysters planted in Seattle’s Elliott Bay to clean water. King5, 2018
- Food, innovation and resilience in the face of climate change. The Seattle Times, Pacific NW Magazine, 2018
- The Decades Long Comeback of Mark Twain’s Favorite Food. Smithsonian Magazine, 2012
- A God amongst oysters. Edible Seattle, 2003
- Olympia oyster biology and history handout. Swinomish Tribe, 2015
- Northwest Straits Olympia oyster restoration fact sheet. Northwest Straits, 2014
- Olympia oyster filtration time lapse video. Chloe Jenniches, 2014
- Olympia oyster field guide. PSRF, 2013
- Olympia oyster restoration in Puget Sound. PSRF, 2012