Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida) are native to San Francisco Bay but their populations have been declining for the last 150 years. Scientists from SERC and a number of other institutions have been working to restore the Olympia oyster populations in San Francisco Bay for over a decade. However, at some sites these efforts have been hampered by the intense predation by an invasive snail, the Atlantic oyster drill (Urosalpinx cinerea). These snails eat oysters, mussels, and barnacles. We want to know if there is a way to restore or increase oyster populations at site where drills are present.
The Olympia oyster population began declining around the time of the Gold Rush (mid 1800’s). Following this increase of human presence, the oysters had to contend with overharvesting and pollution caused by gold mining. However, populations still remain even in the highly urbanized San Francisco Bay.
The Atlantic oyster drills are native to the East coast of the United States, and were likely introduced to the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1800’s by Atlantic oyster shipment. This larger, different species of oyster (Crassostrea virginica) was placed in the Bay in an attempt to start an aquaculture industry.
Efforts to restore or enhance Olympia oysters on the West Coast began in Puget Sound in 1999. Currently there are projects in British Columbia, Washington state, Oregon, and California. Challenges facing oyster restoration vary from place to place, but common issues include invasive species, sedimentation, estuarine acidification, and hypoxia. To learn more about Olympia oyster restoration and conservation, check out this website.
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