2021 Oyster Restoration Project
It is with great excitement that Friends of Miller Bay launched their Olympia Oyster Restoration Project in Miller Bay. We are working with Puget Sound Restoration Fund to purchase both technical assistance ($10,000) and 100 bags of Olympia oyster spat ($10,000) that have been set on relic Pacific oyster shells (these are called cultch). These bags, totaling a minimum of 100,000 oysters, (there could be 300,000 to 400,00 if we are lucky) will be stored at PSRF’s rearing facility while we begin the major task of obtaining all the necessary permits (typically at least 6 months) before placing the cultch into the Bay.
If all goes well, permits will be in place by fall of 2022 and the bags of cultch can be picked up from their Manchester location and deposited onto Miller Bay’s Clam Island.
Test stations are set up in the bay to determine natural Olympia oyster spat recruitment. This is accomplished by suspending oyster shells on a string in the water in May and collecting them in September for microscopic examination. FOMB’s 2018 oyster project is thriving but only 20,000 spat were placed near the outflow of Cowling Creek, not enough to create the volume of spat to begin the restoration process.
Olympia oysters have many obstacles to regain their foothold and any commercial harvesting would pose a threat. The wild stock of Olympia’s build up very slowly and any exploitation of the oysters can quickly deplete the new beds. The Suquamish Tribe recognizes the importance of this project and has agreed not to do any harvesting of these oysters. Another detriment is climate change and extreme weather events such as storms and freezes which can severely decrease their numbers.
With patience and perseverance, Miller Bay can again support a healthy population of native Olympia’s, perhaps to be enjoyed occasionally by Miller Bay residents and Suquamish tribal members. Tribal communities ate these native oysters for sustenance for thousands of years.