A recent study identifies Morro Bay Estuary as a priority location for restoring the native Olympia oyster population through conservation aquaculture. It’s a project that unites shellfish lovers and conservationists on the Central Coast.
April Ridlon, a post-doctoral researcher at UC Santa Barbara, said oysters are not as charismatic as other marine organisms she has studied, but they are a foundation species — meaning they create a habitat for other animals that live on or near their shells. They are also a source of food for crabs, birds, and humans.
Ridlon said Olympia oysters are native to the West Coast, but populations have struggled since the 1850s.
“Originally, Olympia oyster populations declined during the Gold Rush era because people who came to California and the West Coast searching for gold, also found delicious Olympia oysters and went about eating their way through Olympia oyster populations,” Ridlon said.