|Fisheries staff about to deploy bags of oyster shell seeded with native Olympia oysters. Photo credit: D. King|
Olympia oysters, the only oyster native to the Pacific Northwest, are ecosystem engineers that historically formed extensive beds in the Salish Sea and provided habitat for other ecologically-important species. Olympia oyster remnants have also been found in shell middens, indicating this native oyster was once a traditional Swinomish food.
Due to human activities, less than ~5% of the historical beds in Puget Sound remain. Our goal in restoring Olympia oysters to Swinomish tidelands is to bring back an ecologically and traditionally-important species and increase resiliency in the nearshore.
To date, we have outplanted >515,700 Olympia oysters on the western shore of the Reservation. We collect data on and off of these restoration sites in order to measure the biological successes or failures of our reestablished populations.
Our team is also collaborating with the Swinomish Community Environmental Health Program and the Swinomish Shellfish Company to grow Olympia oysters for community distribution and to increase awareness of the importance of Olympia oysters as a culturally-valuable species in the region.
You can find many of our Olympia oyster publications on the Swinomish publications web page under all three publication categories.
We have or continue to partner with several individuals or organizations on some of our projects including: Dr. Jeffery Cordell, Consultant; the Native Olympia Oyster Collaborative; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the Puget Sound Restoration Fund; the Skagit River System Cooperative; the United States Geological Survey; and Western Washington University. We also worked with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Skagit Marine Resources Committee on our initial site selection. Funding for aspects of this work was provided by SITC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tribal Wildlife Grants (F14AP00495), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (PA-00J322-01), and Conservation, Research and Education Opportunities International.