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.