A colony of Olympia Oysters has made its home in the Gorge Waterway.
This species, although close to extinction elsewhere in British Columbia, are particularly abundant under the Craigflower Bridge. As such, the approval from the Department of Fisheries & Oceans for the new Craigflower Bridge requires that these special urban oysters of the Gorge be relocated to avoid damage during construction. Oysters throughout the Gorge help clean the water and provide habitat for many other species.
The District of Saanich and Town of View Royal have hired World Fisheries Trust (WFT) to relocate the Olympia Oysters. Two areas have been identified for the relocation; Christie Point and Esquimalt Gorge Park both have space between eelgrass beds and existing oysters. The oysters at Christie Point will help produce baby oysters to colonize the new bridge piers, which will be made of specially textured concrete to receive them. The oysters by Esquimalt Gorge Park will be used by the Park’s nature house for educational purposes.
Using clean crushed rock, WFT is building a small reef to provide a habitat at Esquimalt Gorge Park, about 200 metres/yards off shore. On top of the rock, they are placing patches of Pacific Oyster shells provided by Fanny Bay Oysters and cleaned with nets provided by Island Scallops. These shells will keep the relocated native oysters out of the mud and provide habitat for new oysters to settle. The patches of shells may also attract fish and other underwater wildlife. Spaces between the patches will be left to enable swimmers and snorkelers to stand.
Establishing this environment for the new oyster colonies should take about three weeks. As they are ready, the Olympia Oysters will be gathered up from under the bridge and relocated to the new sites. As many of the oysters as possible will be left where they are if they are unlikely to be damaged by construction. To ensure their survival, WFT will monitor the new oyster colonies for a total of five years. Information gained from this conservation project will be valuable for other oyster projects elsewhere in BC and in Puget Sound.