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Justin Taylor: I’m Justin Taylor.
Bill Taylor: And I’m Bill Taylor.
Liam Moriarty: Where are we standing right now?
Bill: We’re standing on beaches of Little Skookum Inlet down in south Puget Sound.
Liam: Looks like tide’s going out.
Bill: Yep. Tide’s going to be low here in about two hours.
Liam: Smells like the tide’s going out too.
Bill: Yeah; it does. The smell’s … got a little bit of mud, and you can smell the water and kind of hear the clams squeaking on the beach as the water drops out.
Liam: Justin, tell me; how did your family come to this part of the Salish Sea?
Justin: My family actually came here in a covered wagon, the earliest of them. They’ve been working around the tidelands and that since the 1890s anyway.
Liam: Folks have been harvesting oysters from this part of the water for a long time. They were doing that quite a lot even when you were a kid, weren’t they?
Justin: In fact, at that time it was the native Olympia oyster and things were really booming at that time.
Liam: The oystermen always depended on having clean water. That became an issue as early as the 1920s.
Liam: Because the pollution from the mill was killing off the native Olympia oysters, the oystermen brought in another species of oyster that was able to stand up under the pollution better; is that what happened?
Justin: That is correct; yes.
Liam: There was a conflict about the mill and the water between the oystermen and other folks, wasn’t there?
Justin: There were lawsuits. At that time the State had no protection at all. The one offshoot that came from this, the State developed a pollution control commission, what evolved into the Ecology Department now., but when we were first having our problems, there was nothing in this state that protected us.
Liam: The sort of industrial pollution issues, the pulp mills and that sort of thing, you don’t have as much of that sort of a problem anymore. Most large industrial sources of pollution have been addressed in various ways. But you have other water quality issues, don’t you?
Justin: One of them is pollution from septic tanks and that, bacterial pollution. There are so many more people around the sound. They have pets and that sort of thing, and it all adds to runoff into the water.
Liam: There’s also an issue that folks are just starting to become aware of, that’s associated with climate change, and that’s acidification of the water. Are you guys seeing the impact of that?
Bill: In our hatchery we have in Quilcene, we’ve had the last several years very low productivity of our Pacific oyster larvae because of corrosive water, low pH water.
Liam: I would think that puts you guys in a difficult situation. In Justin’s day when the problem was being caused by a pulp mill down at the end of the bay, you could do something about that, clean it up. If we’re dealing with something that is part of a large global climate change phenomenon, that’s not going to be amenable to the same sort of approach. Where does that leave you guys?
Bill: Well, it makes us at least look at different ways to solve the issue, at least in our hatcheries.
Liam: I know I’ve heard people complain about – especially geoduck — harvesting and feeling like people just come and tear up the beach. Is that an issue?
Bill: Certainly some people feel it’s an issue. Folks have questions about the environmental effects. There are studies going on and at least from our perspective and watching tidelands for a long time, we don’t see the impacts that they claim that there is.
Liam: Bill, this is a business that seems almost uniquely dependent on water quality, and that’s something you really don’t have control over because everyone shares the water. Can you talk a little about that?
Bill: We actually spend a lot of time working on water quality issues. We’re involved in everything from land use planning to making sure that there’s adequate regulations for septics, storm water issues. So we’ve been very involved both at the legislature and here at the local levels in the counties.
Liam: Both of you guys have grown up on these beaches, and have spent your lives walking these beaches and working these beaches. I would think that’s a real sense of connection, especially in a day when most people are from somewhere else.
Bill: I think probably anybody that’s grown up in a family that’s got a long tradition of doing something, you have a sense of pride. A lot of effort has gone into trying to make sure that we leave this place a good place for our kids when they come along. My niece who actually runs — operates this farm here, is our fifth generation to start working in the family business, and we’re – we want to see that legacy go forward and we want conditions to be here so that the family can continue to work in the shellfish industry and be prosperous.
- Taylor Shellfish Farms homepage
- Puget Sound Restoration Fund community shellfish farms
- Protect Our Shoreline group opposing large-scale shellfish farming
- Puget Sound Chemistry Transformed by Climate Change and Runoff: Scientific American Magazine