Conservation Aquaculture: Growing oysters to support restoration
The Native Olympia Oyster Collaborative is exploring opportunities to link the growing of Olympia oysters by shellfish farmers and community groups to restoration efforts along the coast. While aquaculture has been used extensively in the restoration of other oyster species, this is a relatively new tool on the West Coast and with Olympia oysters, and the associated risks and benefits still need to be carefully evaluated. Some of our partners have pioneered techniques in conservation aquaculture -- human cultivation of an aquatic organism for the planned management and protection of a natural resource -- for the native oyster. Puget Sound Restoration Fund was the first conservation organization to use hatchery-raised Olympia oysters to restore wild populations, partnering with local communities to create community shellfish farms, with tribal communities to restore ancestral harvest of oyster beds, and with commercial aquaculturists to meet both commercial production and restoration goals. Additional efforts in Oregon and California have followed, with groups “outplanting” hatchery-raised juveniles into Netarts Bay, South Slough, and Elkhorn Slough.