January 29, 2014

Pacific NW Trip

Back in September I flew out to Washington to visit a few oyster farms. Taylor Shellfish, Elkhorn Oyster Company, and Hama Hama Oyster Company were gracious enough to show me around and let me take some photos and ask a bunch of questions. Enjoy the photos!

First stop: Taylor Shellfish on Puget Sound
Taylor Shellfish crew harvesting oysters on the flats. 

Taylor Shellfish grows geoduck, the most phallic of all shellfish. 

(Geoduck is delicious, by the way.)

Second stop: Elkhorn Oyster Company in Willapa Bay
Digging some gigantic oysters out of the mud.

Oysters as far as the eye can see, the crew hard at work. (I helped out, for what is was worth)

Elkhorn Oyster Co. starts their spat-on-shell oysters strung on long lines off the bottom before finishing on the bottom. 

Third and final stop: Hama Hama Oyster Company on Hood Canal
Oysters for sale in the retail store chilling in circulated sea water. 

Growing oysters means working with the tides, in this case low tide was at 2:00 am. 

The shell pile outside the Hama Hama HQ, steadily growing since the 1950s. 

A HUGE thank you to everyone who put up with me on my trip: Marco Pinchot, Andi Shotwell, and Nick and Adam James especially. I hope you are all doing well!



  1. Worked out there for a while, great oyster culture, loved the geoduck.

  2. Unfortunately, our Willapa Bay Oysters may soon be off the list for anyone who wants clean food and sustainable environment friendly food.

    Large commercial oysters growers are seeking a permit to spray the systemic and environmentally hazardous neonicotinoid neurotoxin—Imidacloprid--on tidal mudflats.

    If they are successful this will create a precedent for allowing this environmentally hazardous chemical to be sprayed in wetlands and intertidal zones in other states as well. While this permit application is for Washington State, if approved it will likely affect many other areas.

    This product is clearly marked on the label, “Environmental Hazards, Do not apply directly to water, areas where surface water is present or to intertidal areas below the mean high water mark.” “This product is toxic to wildlife and highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates.” The following statement is also given on the label: “PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENTS, HAZARDS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS CAUTION.” Source, page 5: https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/ppls/089442-00005-20140616.pdf

    The State of Washington has temporarily denied the permit, based on sound science. They are requesting public comment. The comment period is open until May 14th, 2018. Comments can be made at the following link: https://ecology.wa.gov/Events/WQ/Aquatic-Pesticide-Permits/Public-notice-to-deny-permit

    The Imidacloprid permit request is for using this chemical in non-native commercial oyster beds, where it has been shown that it binds to sediment particles and persists for many months. This product has been shown to be toxic to arthropods, mollusks, and worms in terrestrial, aquatic, and marine environments. While binding to sediment particles, Imidacloprid solution that comes in contact with water disperses readily. When absorbed by susceptible creatures it binds permanently and cumulatively to sites in their cellular structures. Many of the susceptible creatures are important to the food web, and their demise--as well as the demise of the native burrowing shrimp they wish to target-- will affect the entire ecosystem. The burrowing shrimp are an important keystone species in our coastal wetland ecosystems.

    If you would like to learn more about the importance of burrowing shrimp, the dangers of Imidacloprid, or sustainable alternatives to off bottom culture for oyster growers please stop by the facebook group, Resisting Toxics in Coastal Environments. We have collected a large body of evidence addressing these issues which we would be happy to share with all interested persons.

    Our priorities are to encourage lasting solutions that will help the industry end its long-standing reliance on pesticides and create conditions amenable to ecologically and economically sustainable fisheries and shellfish aquaculture.