The Olympia oyster, Ostrea lurida, is the only oyster native to the west coast of the United States. Populations have declined over the last 150 years due to coastal development, over harvest, and pollution, beginning with the Gold Rush. Generally, society is unaware that a native oyster ever flourished in California, and they therefore do not realize the ecosystem services oysters once provided to our sheltered wetland coastlines. The goal of my master's thesis was to bring awareness back to natural wetland ecosystem composition, and to devise strategic ways to incentivize restoration in Southern California communities.
Oyster team from left to right: Briana Group, Colleen Grant, Desmond Ho, Erin Winslow, and Emily Read. Photo credit: Taso Papadakis.
Restoring native oysters in Southern California is modeled to be an economically robust option for protecting local wetlands. Conservative results revealed that restoring one hectare of oyster bed could increase the kelp bass fishery by 39,304 additional grams in biomass over 30 years and increase the California halibut fishery by $24,411 per cohort (Winslow, in prep). Our study also suggests that restoring Olympia oysters in the Batiquitos Lagoon could decrease maintenance costs by up to $2 million over a 20 year period (Winslow, in prep).