The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe is investigating a variety of gear types for growing Pacific oysters, to ensure more harvest opportunities for tribal members.

The Shellfish Grow-Out Program consists of two parts: growing oyster seed in a floating upwelling system (FLUPSY), and putting the seed in tumble bags and basket systems that are flipped either manually or by the tides.

The tumble bag and basket systems help develop the oyster shell, mimicking movement caused by the tide, helping erode the sharp lip of the shell and creating a deeper cup for the oyster.

“Due to the northern Hood Canal’s wind and tidal influence, we need to make sure that the gear does not break away or get destroyed but still produces select grade oysters as to not compete with the commercial wild harvest,” said Julianna Sullivan, the tribe’s marine biologist.

Port Gamble partners with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe to operate the FLUPSY at the John Wayne Marina in Sequim.

Port Gamble started with 400,000 seeds in the spring, sourced from Jamestown’s shellfish hatchery out of Kona, Hawaii. A portion of the seed was distributed onto the beaches on the tribe’s reservation in Port Gamble Bay, and the Dosewallips tidelands in Quilcene in the summer. Then, oyster seed that had grown to about 2 inches wide were placed in the bag and basket systems near Hood Head, on Point Julia, and in Port Gamble Bay.

Port Gamble also is taking water quality measurements inside and outside the FLUPSY to monitor environmental conditions.

In addition to beach enhancement, Sullivan hopes to create an outreach program that involves students helping seed beaches, and educates tribal council, tribal members and schools about the importance of healthy beaches for shellfish and water quality.

Julianna Sullivan, a Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal marine biologist, moves through oysters seed through a machine that sorts the seed by size. Photo: Tiffany Royal