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Puget Sound’s Finely-Aged Oysters

August 15, 2017

Officials reopened Drayton Harbor, in northern Washington state, this winter to commercial oyster farming 22 years after the community stepped up to reduce water pollution.

Blaine5thGradersontheBeauty.jpg 5th Grade students harvest Puget Sound oysters

With funding from the NOAA Restoration Center and other partners, the Puget Sound Restoration Fund helped spearhead early efforts to bring Drayton Harbor oysters back.

First, they identified the many sources of pollution entering the harbor that contributed to poor water quality. Their findings included leaky septic systems and poor agricultural and boating practices.

To reduce pollution entering the harbor, they partnered with local farmers, ports, municipalities, and other community partners to change practices and upgrade septic systems. They also worked with Geoff Menzies, a former oyster grower in Drayton Harbor, to rebuild historic oyster beds.

“The key to these community-driven efforts was highlighting the positive benefits of clean water.  We didn’t want to point fingers at any one group but instead asked community members what they could do to help,” said Betsy Peabody, founder of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund.

Throughout the project, volunteers measured oyster growth, survival, and yield and collecting monthly water quality samples. They logged more than 38,000 hours over the life of the project.  

“In the end, everyone recognized the benefit of having clean water and locally-grown oysters.  We’re thrilled that people can enjoy the taste of Drayton Harbor oysters and stay motivated to keep the water clean,” said Peabody.

This project helps bring the state of Washington closer to their recovery goal of renewing 10,800 shellfish beds in Puget Sound by 2020.

Last updated by Office of Habitat Conservation on September 27, 2022