Samish Bay Oysters
A favorite saying around here, “The oysters you eat at the Oyster Bar today, last night slept in Samish Bay” has it’s roots in the history of the region.
The staff of the Taylor Shellfish Samish Island Farm regard their work as similar to their land based contemporaries, as farmers. The bay has been producing shellfish since the early part of the last century. Many of the harvesting practices are unchanged over time. Oysters are still hand-sorted, washed, and bagged by on site staff. The work is done at low tide, which, during the winter, is often in the middle of the night.
Oyster farming is hard, physical labor, in cold conditions. But the people who stick with it love it, just as we love what their labor produces.
A long standing tradition, fresh shellfish is sold on-site at the retail location along with charcoal for those who desire a beachfront picnic, barbecuing beside a colorful pile of oyster shells. The farm produces oysters, clams, mussels, geoduck and even local seasonal Dungeness Crab.
According to Taylor Shellfish President Bill Taylor, the demand for shellfish is on the rise. “We believe that demand for shellfish is going to grow both domestically and internationally. We see markets continue to be strong, demand typically outstrips supply” he told undercurrentnews.com.
Taylor Shellfish farms produces 60 million pounds of Oysters annually, 4-5 million pounds of clams, 1.2-1.5 million pounds of mussels and 700,000-800,000 lbs of geoduck across both the US and Canada.
According to the Governor of Washington’s Office, the state’s commercial shellfish growers employ about 2,700 people and contributed $184 million to the state’s economy in 2010.
Samish Bay itself is ground zero for expansion in the industry. The Washington Shellfish Initiative, initiated by Governor Jay Inslee, in concert with the Puget Sound Partnership, is in the second phase of a plan to add 10,800 acres to the region for shellfish harvesting by 2020, 4,000 of which are in Samish Bay.
Currently, a large portion of prime harvesting area in Samish Bay face random bouts of pollution (usually after heavy rainfall) which make them unsuitable for production. This is due to factors in the Samish River watershed-farms and livestock, manure-based fertilizer, failing of overloaded septic systems, even dog poop in the backyard.
20 government agencies are involved in monitoring the water level, and sampling shellfish from the bay to ensure that what consumers are eating is safe. We’re proud of or neighbors, the farmers and people of Bow who are banding together to modernize farming practices, upgrade systems, and pitch in as a community to improve a unique part of our heritage.
Here’s to enjoying shellfish for generations to come!