Bill Taylor likes oysters raw, fried, barbecued, sautéed, smoked—any way they can be prepared. And he has a simple message: “You need clean water to have healthy shellfish that are safe to eat.”
Bill represents the fourth generation of his family to run Taylor Shellfish Farms, the largest producer of farmed bivalves in the United States. His great-grandfather started the family business back in the 1880s. His father, Justin Taylor, built the operation from a small family business to a globally significant shellfish producer. Bill grew up on south Puget Sound, where he and his brother Paul spent hours sailing a home-built raft. They also spent hours out on the mudflats, working in the family business.
Clean water has always concerned the Taylors. Oysters and other shellfish were abundant in Puget Sound until the pulp mills came in the 1920s and 30s, spewing toxins into the Sound and nearly wiping out the native Olympia oyster. Taylor Shellfish filed the first environmental lawsuit against a pulp mill that eventually led to its shutting down.
Today, the threats to growing the shellfish we love to eat come from polluted runoff from the lands surrounding Puget Sound, increasing pressures of development, and carbon being absorbed by the ocean. To ensure future Taylor generations can continue to grow shellfish, the company – often with the Nature Conservancy at their side – works tirelessly in numerous forums to address these threats.
“It takes vigilance,” says Bill. “It gets down to all of us and our everyday practices. But, I want people to know that my family has been doing this for a long time. Those areas that were devastated by the pulp mills—we’re farming those now. Things can get better.”