Jamestown S’Klallam enhances tidelands with oysters on Sequim Bay

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe planted more than 10,000 Olympia oyster seeds this summer to enhance an acre of tideland near the tribe’s headquarters on Sequim Bay.

“The tidelands in front of the tribal center have small patches of mature and juvenile Olympia oysters so there is successful reproduction occurring, meaning there is probably good habitat,” said Kelly Toy, the tribe’s shellfish management program manager.

Chris Burns, Jamestown S’Klallam staff member, and Jonathan Davis, of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, attach Olympia seed bags to a line anchored to the tideland.

Olympia oysters are native to the Northwest and were an important food source for many tribes. These oysters were once abundant, but due to pollution, overharvest and habitat degradation, the populations are extremely low. Pacific oysters were introduced for harvest to supplement the severe decline in the early 1900s and eventually outcompeted the Olympias on beaches throughout Puget Sound, Toy said.

Olympia oyster reefs provide many ecological services to many other marine species and improve water quality. she said.

“Boosting the Olympia oyster population on the Sequim tidelands will increase an important resource that will benefit tribal members.”

The tribe is also enhancing oyster habitat on the beach by adding empty oyster shells. As with other oysters, Olympia oyster-larvae need oyster shell to settle on, called cultch. Survival and growth of the plot will be monitored and more Olympia seed will be planted over the next five years, Toy said.