Puget Sound Restoration Fund: The Oyster Harvest

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Oysters are delicious, but they’re also highly important to our marine ecosystem. They’re natural filtration systems, removing toxins and cycling nutrients back into the water that help combat pollution. Oysters within the Puget Sound are also some of the first species to feel the effects of a new threat called Ocean Acidification (OA). As the ocean becomes more acidic due to decreasing pH levels from human industrialization, oyster seed shells begin to dissolve causing holes, disease and early death.

Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF) is helping restore these mollusks by planting native oyster beds throughout Puget Sound. They’re creating a community of oyster harvesters through their CSA program, as well as partnering with research institutes to further study and treat the effects of OA. On an early morning on Bainbridge Island, Washington local volunteers gather to take advantage of the low tide and collect the native oysters.

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For more visit the Ocean Acidification Project

Cameron Karsten Photography

Ocean Acidification and our Oyster Culture – Part I

karsten_cameron_01In March 2013, I met Benoit Eudeline. Benoit speaks in a thick French accent and is the lead scientific researcher at Taylor Shellfish Farms’ hatchery.  Located in the pristine Dabob Bay, Taylor Shellfish is Washington State’s foremost producer of farm-raised shellfish, supplying the industry with top-grade oysters, mussels, clams and geoduck.  It produces two-thirds of the state’s mollusk aquaculture and is the country’s largest supply to Asia, boosting its’ economy and solidifying the region’s bearing as a premium seafood culture.  But in 2008, all this came to a screeching halt.  Something was happening.  Numbers were falling at Taylor Shellfish and each of the other farms in the area.  Production was at a loss.  Larvae within the confines of the hatcheries became insolvent at surviving.  Holes appeared in their developing shells.  Disease and predators disrupted growth.  Something was brewing in the Pacific Northwest.

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karsten_cameron_10Nowhere else in the world was this environmental phenomenon occurring.  Mollusks, particularly oysters, were thriving as usual, but in the northwestern estuaries of the Pacific Ocean, the declining health of young shellfish became obvious.  First, the oysters; then slowly the shells of young geoducks and the tendrils of mussels, which they rely on to suspend to their host, began showing signs of frailty.  As the seasons over the next few years passed in confusion, scientists began studying the changing environments until one thing became evident.

To see Part 1 of the multimedia project Ocean Acidification and our Oyster Culture, please click here