Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2020

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Cultural and Environmental Resource Management

Committee Chair

Rodrigo Renteria-Valencia

Second Committee Member

Patrick McCutcheon

Third Committee Member

J. Hope Amason


Beginning with the 1848 California Gold Rush, populations of Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida) were nearly decimated by overharvest and water pollution in Puget Sound. To fill the market demand for oysters, Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) were introduced from Japan in the early 1900s. Since then, Pacific oysters have become the most common species sold by shellfish growers in the Pacific Northwest due to their hardiness and fast growth. Olympia oysters have subsequently become the focus of many restoration projects in Puget Sound in attempts to regrow populations. Paradoxically, Pacific oyster shells are often used in restoration projects as substrate for the Olympia oysters to settle on.

This study aimed to explore the different management practices of Olympia and Pacific oysters in Puget Sound through a common pool resource management framework. Semi-structured interviews and free-listing activities were conducted with eleven different stakeholders including oyster growers, restoration project managers, shellfish biologists, health department employees, and researchers between June and August 2019. Interview questions covered a broad range of topics, compiling a baseline of information for future research projects.

After analyzing interviews, several notable themes emerged regarding oyster restoration and harvesting. The first being that the market is a direct result of the combination of the history of Puget Sound, selfhood, and harvest and territoriality; next, restoration and monitoring practices result from the laws, institutions, partnerships, funding, and volunteer efforts; and finally, that the future of the industry is shaped largely by the ecology of oysters, surrounding pollution, health, and climate change.

The free-listing exercises that took place revealed the most imminent threats to oysters according to those interviewed. The category of threat most frequently brought up was water pollution and water quality, followed by climate change effects. The research resulted in several clear management recommendations for restoration work on Olympia oysters in Puget Sound. Most importantly, a clear set of metrics needs to be established and agreed upon by each of the groups that are independently working to restore oyster habitats in the area.