Once the West Coast’s premiere oyster species, the Olympic Oyster, is all but extinct. It is native to the waters from Baja, California to Sitka, Alaska but these days, hard to find.
Brian Kingzett, a marine biologist and manager of the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, said human impacts on the West Coast — environmental and commercial harvesting — have played a large role in its demise. In the last five areas being watched for the specie (including a site off of the northwest coast of the Island), he said few if any of the oysters are to be found.
Today, most commercial shellfish producers grow a Japanese variety, one that’s more hardy to take the rigours of life off of Vancouver Island.
At the Centre for Shellfish Research, based out of the Deep Bay facility, Kingzett said undergraduate students are using government grants to research ways to rehabilitate the Olympic Oyster. With a few samples on site and in the touch tank where the public can see one, Kingzett said they are hoping to educate people about this effort.