Photo by Jessica Keller: Port of Seattle and Puget Sound Restoration Fund staff drop bags filled with oyster shells off of Smith Cove between Terminal 91 and Elliott Bay Marina Friday morning. The effort is the latest work in a pilot project that aims to restore and enhance aquatic habitat in the bay. Scientists are monitoring the site for three years to see if the oysters will survive and reproduce thus restoring native oysters in local waters and improving the habitat for other aquatic wildlife.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Port of Seattle and Puget Sound Restoration Fund staff drop bags filled with oyster shells off of Smith Cove between Terminal 91 and Elliott Bay Marina Friday morning. The effort is the latest work in a pilot project that aims to restore and enhance aquatic habitat in the bay. Scientists are monitoring the site for three years to see if the oysters will survive and reproduce thus restoring native oysters in local waters and improving the habitat for other aquatic wildlife.

Wearing waders or water-proof boots and navigating small rocks and slick algae, a small group of marine scientists completed important habitat work off the shore of Smith Cove in north Elliott Bay between Terminal 91 and Elliott Bay Marina during low tide, Friday morning.

Their task: taking heavy netted bags containing 200-250 oyster shells seeded witih native oyster larvae and placing them in the sand. It was the second time Puget Sound Restoration Fund scientists placed seeded oyster shell at the site, the first taking place in 2018. While most of the oyster larvae will die, PSRF Restoration Director Brian Allen said, if all goes well, enough oysters will survive to maturity and reproduce, and their shell structures will serve as important habitat for other wildlife.

“We haven’t seen that happen yet, but we’re definitely keeping an eye out for it,” he said.

Friday’s habitat work is actually part of the Smith Cove Blue Carbon Pilot Project, led by the Port of Seattle and PSRF. For the three-year study, they are evaluating whether adding kelp, eelgrass and oyster shells to the area is an effective way to restore native oysters and improve marine habitat.

“The Port of Seattle cannot stop global environmental challenges alone, but the Port is taking many innovative steps to help stem the tide,” Port Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck said in a press release. “Efforts we’re making here at Smith Cove can serve as a model for marine habitat restoration across Puget Sound.”