Cooperatove Conservation Project

Olympia Oyster Restoration Project

Re-seeding the Northwest’s Only Native Oyster

Location: Far West Region: Washington

Project Summary: A community-based effort reestablishing Washington's only native oyster restores an essential component of the marine ecosystem and builds diverse partnerships.
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Baseline monitoring underway in Liberty Bay prior to native oyster enhancement. (Photo by Tristan Peter-Contesse)
Resource Challenge

The Olympia oyster, the Pacific Northwest coast’s only native oyster, ranges from southeastern Alaska to Baja, California. For thousands of years, Olympia oysters provided sustenance for tribes and habitat for a host of marine organisms. Until the late 1800s, Olympia oysters were the most abundant bivalves in Puget Sound, where they occupied thousands of acres of productive, diverse habitat. Over-harvesting, sediment loads, and pollution drove the oyster to near extinction. Today, it occupies a fraction of its former range and is a Candidate Threatened Species in Washington State and a priority species for restoration.

Since 1999, the Olympia Oyster Restoration Project has brought together more than 100 partners from the seafood industry, Indian tribes, state agencies, the U.S. Navy, local environmental organizations, schools, and property owners to: 1) identify appropriate habitats for oyster restoration, 2) modify substrate for growing oysters by adding old oyster shells, 3) propagate and seed oyster spat, and 4) monitor results. 

Examples of Key Partners

Puget Sound Restoration Fund, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Taylor Shellfish Farms, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) Restoration Center, 7 Washington Tribes, U.S. Navy, Marine Resources Committees, Seattle Shellfish Company, Shell Puget Sound Refinery, 64 private tideland owners, and others. 

Results and Accomplishments
  • Seeded more than 5 million oysters at 80 experimental sites across Puget Sound, with assistance from more than 100 partners.
  • Intensified seeding at sites where exploratory plantings showed promising results.
  • Modified substrate for growing oysters by adding old oyster shells.
  • Collected wild seed stock and identified additional habitats to build long-term viability.
  • Involved 64 private land owners in planting oysters on private tidelands.
  • Involved State and tribal agencies and the University of Washington in monitoring efforts to increase the effectiveness of seeding methods and refine site selection criteria.
  • Leveraged $200,000 in federal funds from the NOAA Community-based Restoration Program to spur the involvement of state, local, and private partners.
  • Convened a regional advisory group of shellfish farmers and scientists to add technical support.
  • Initiated genetic research to guide restoration methods and safeguard genetic integrity.
  • Obtained tidelands for the development of an income-generating oyster farm to support future efforts.

The Olympia Oyster Restoration Project created a commercial oyster farm to help seed future restoration projects.

Project Contact
Betsey Peabody
Executive Director
Puget Sound Restoration Fund



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