Big Shellfish vs. the Little Guys: On Oysters, Geoducks and Who Gets a Booth

Dear lord, send it back from whence it came!
This past Saturday, a bunch of folks who care very much about the health of the world's oceans got together at Pier 66 for the first-annual Blue Festival. They're just like you and me, in that they want to eat fish without toxins and swim without getting sick, only they work very, very hard to make sure that dream becomes a reality. (You and I? Not so much.)

Also at Blue Festival were representatives of Taylor Shellfish. Taylor has been growing shellfish in Puget Sound for 100 years. Seeing as how they claim to be all about sustainable seafood production, and that was the focus of Blue Festival, it makes sense that Taylor was a little miffed when they were denied the right to set up a booth. Except that this has happened before. And Taylor, like all good industry, has a history of pulling out the victim card when threatened.

Anne Mosness of the Go Wild Campaign, a co-organizer of Blue Festival, says that Taylor pulled a similar stunt last year during another forum in Ballard. Mosness says that Taylor tried to woo its way into the event with plates of free oysters. Then, when denied access, they leafleted outside, threatened the event's advertisers and called Mosness and another activist a "fucking bitch." The problem, says Mosness, is that Taylor and other large industrial growers are trying to weasel their way into places they don't belong.

"They portray themselves as good neighbors," she says. "But I went and looked at a geoduck farm and there's nothing else living there. I just don't need to have them at an event that I'm organizing when they are directly contradicting our goals of restoring the marine environment."

Keith Stavrum agrees. Stavrum manages the oyster beds for Moby Dick Hotel in Nahcotta on Willapa Bay. He says Mosness is right to be suspicious of Taylor's intentions. Stavrum contends that a large pesticide spray from Taylor and a host of other large growers have forced Moby Dick to suspend oyster farming on the bay.

"What I'm saying is this: Taylor represents themselves as all good," says Stavrum. "I don't make him them out to be a monster but the truth should be told: Willapa Bay oysters should not be eaten at this time. We have suspended our harvest. And nobody's telling anybody. The issue that I have is that Taylor is a fraud."

For their part, Taylor contends that they've been very responsive to claims of environmental harm made by Mosness and others.

"It's always good to have critics because they look at your practices and help you scrutinize them," says Taylor public affairs manager Bill Dewey. "But we never seem to be able to do enough to satisfy them."

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