Friday, December 27, 2013

Puget Sound Oyster Restoration

The Washington Shellfish Initiative is working towards native oyster restoration efforts in Puget Sound. A new shellfish restoration hatchery at NOAA’s Manchester Research Station received aid from both the National and Washington Shellfish Initiatives.

“The intent from the beginning of this effort two years ago was to support PSRF work on Olympia oyster restoration,” according to Walton Dickhoff at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife updated the Olympia oyster Rebuilding Plan in May 2012 to lay the groundwork for focused, strategic restoration at 19 priority locations in Puget Sound where core populations existed historically.

To further implementation, NOAA directed funding through the Northwest Straits Commission to produce genetically-diverse seed for Sequim Bay (with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe) and Drayton Harbor.

Soon thereafter, Washington Department of Natural Resources provided funding for native oyster enhancement on aquatic reserve lands in Fidalgo Bay in July 2012, and Washington Department of Ecology funded a large-scale, 10-acre restoration project in Port Gamble Bay in 2013 that will include the production of 5,000,000 restoration-grade seed at the new shellfish restoration hatchery.

In 2013, the Governor’s office provided capital funds to purchase seawater monitoring equipment for the new hatchery.

The coordinated efforts are the result of an initiative that brought singular focus to the job of protecting and enhancing shellfish resources in Washington State.

At the suggestion of Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), and with funding and support from NOAA, The Nature Conservancy, USDA, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, and the Suquamish Tribe, PSRF and a multitude of partners spread shell 2005-2011 across almost 20 acres of tideflats in Liberty Bay to provide settlement structure for native oyster larvae.

According to Brady Blake with WDFW, “extensive monitoring has shown that remnant native oysters scattered in the bay have rapidly re-colonized the restored shell-based habitat exhibiting significant reproductive success, survival, increased abundance including multiple year classes, and colonization of new habitat.   Based on these observations, the results of focused native oyster restoration efforts in Liberty Bay have achieved the minimum thresholds for determining successful restoration identified in WDFW’s 2012 updated Olympia oyster rebuilding plan.  That plan emphasizes re-establishing native oysters at key locations to a threshold where they are naturally self-sustaining, viable populations exhibiting the ability to continue expanding their presence and abundance locally and throughout Puget Sound. By that measure, Liberty Bay provides the model for continued native oyster restoration and research in Washington State.”

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