Raising Oysters

Oysterville is a perfect place for oysters. Oysters have been attracting people to Oysterville for a thousand years. Much of what initially brought people to Oysterville still exists. Lack of industry and a small population in the vicinity have kept Oysterville's Willapa Bay the cleanest large estuary in the continental United States.

Our oysters are raised in the pristine waters of Willapa Bay and picked by hand daily. Hand picking the oysters insures that they contain no sand. They are excellent for cooking in the shell or eating raw.


It takes about five years to grow an oyster. We start by catching oysters that have reproduced naturally. The areas where we do this are called "Catching Beds". Empty oyster shells are put into nylon bags, which are then taken to the catching beds and stacked on racks. In July and August, water temperature on these beds will reach 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature the oysters will spawn. They release sperm and egg into the water. The sperm and egg join, forming a spat (baby oyster). After spending a few weeks floating around in the bay, the spat will begin to form a shell. Sensing that its floating days are coming to an end, the spat falls to the bay bottom and feels with its foot for a good place to spend the rest of its life. If it doesn't like a place, the spat propels itself away from the bottom.

Oysters like to grow in reefs, oyster attached to oyster. Many spat confuse our bags of shells with oyster reefs and settle down upon them. After a year, the bags are transplanted to our "Fattening Beds". Fattening beds are closer to the ocean than catching beds. On a fattening bed, oysters get more of the algae and plankton that the ocean brings into the bay. This allows the oysters to grow to a fat, marketable size. The bags are ripped open so that the shells and baby oysters can be scattered onto the fattening beds.

Every year we break and scatter the oysters apart from each other. We pull them out of the sand. We make sure there are no starfish on the beds eating them. When the oysters have grown to a marketable size, they are culled into singles. At low tide, they are picked by hand and brought to the cannery for sale.

More information about oysters is available at The Oyster Guide web site.