Conservation Aquaculture Could Bring More Native Oysters to West Coast

Ten estuaries on the West Coast of North America have been identified as priority locations for expanding the use of conservation aquaculture in a study led by the Native Olympia Oyster Collaborative and funded by the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP). SNAPP is a research collaboration supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS) at UC Santa Barbara.

The study, published in PLOS One, recommends locations and methods for the strategic expansion of conservation aquaculture to bring back Olympia oyster populations—both to local estuaries where they have most declined, and into more local restaurants for oyster lovers to dine on. The authors propose using aquaculture in these estuaries—seven of which are in California—in a win-win scenario that supports severely declined Olympia oyster populations, while also benefiting people, including local shellfish growers and Tribal communities.

“If you’ve eaten oysters on the half shell anywhere on the West Coast of North America, chances are good that you’ve been eating one of a few species introduced to the region for just that purpose,” said April Ridlon, SNAPP postdoctoral scholar, collaborative lead of the Native Olympia Oyster Collaborative (NOOC) and lead author of the study. That’s partly because the oyster native to this coast, the Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida), was overfished in the Gold Rush era, and some populations—faced with other stressors like habitat changes and sedimentation—never recovered.

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