Olympia Oyster

collected in 2009
Scientific Name:
Ostrea lurida

Unlike the introduced Pacific Oyster, the Olympia Oyster is BC’s only native species of oyster. Given its ecological and cultural importance, it should rank among other iconic species of the area; yet because of its near demise a century ago, it has been nearly erased from our collective memory.

Also known as Olys, the species fed humans along our coasts for thousands of years – that is, until it was overharvested, starting with the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, which in turn triggered commercial harvesting in BC in the late 1800s. By the early 1930s, stocks were effectively depleted. Populations have yet to fully recover, and today, Olympia Oysters are protected as ‘species of special concern’. It inhabits only a fraction of its historical range, and is found in such low concentrations that it is considered functionally extinct throughout many of the estuaries where it once thrived.

The ecological consequences of these declines have not been fully investigated, but given the importance of oysters to other organisms, the impacts could be significant. As part of ongoing research, this specimen was collected in 2009 from the west coast of Vancouver Island, where remnant populations continue to eke out an existence.