Skokomish Tribe shellfish technician William Williams leans over the side of a boat and drops a cement block bristling with Pacific oyster shells into the water near the Skokomish tidelands.
The tribe is distributing several of these blocks throughout southern Hood Canal to attract oyster spat, or recruited larvae, to learn more about oyster reproduction in the area.
Pacific oysters spawn by broadcasting reproductive cells, some of which result in fertilized eggs and later mature to larvae. The larvae float with the tides and currents until they settle on a hard surface such as oyster shells, known as “cultch.”
“We want to try to get an idea of what kind of spat resource we have locally,” said Chris Eardley, Skokomish Tribe’s shellfish biologist. “The advantage of southern Hood Canal is that the water is warmer than the northern end of the canal, which helps with natural oyster reproduction too, although it may take several summers of monitoring to paint a picture.”
Eardley tried several spat collection efforts this year, including setting out bags of clean shells on tidelands as well as sowing shells by hand. Eardley checked shell that was spread in May and found a healthy amount of spat growth.