Overexploited fisheries are a worldwide problem. Restoration efforts aimed at these fisheries often involve a combination of reduced catch, hatcheries, and habitat improvement. The native oyster of western North America, Ostrea lurida,† was commercially extinct in most locations more than a century ago. In this paper, we track the history of its management for insight into its demise and failed recovery in Washington State. We document six phases of management: open access, aquaculture, control of water pollution sources, substitution by nonindigenous oysters, harvest regulations and marine reserves, and restoration. Three general lessons emerge from this historical analysis, which may apply generally to exploited fisheries that fail to recover. First, the introduction of substitute species led to neglect of the native species for many decades. Second, reserves were not fully protected and instead were designed for commercial removal of newly settled oysters, thus they largely failed. Finally, current restoration efforts are hampered by several biological problems, including water pollution, invasive competitors and predators, and habitat loss.
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