I was lucky enough to grow up being in or around the water every day of my life – and because of that, I have nothing but respect for our oceans. Covering over 70% of the Earth’s surface, oceans are quite literally what makes up most of our planet. From tide pools to coral reefs to deep seas there are countless ecosystems that play vital roles in our planet’s stability.
These vast, beautiful, and sometimes terrifying waters are not immune from the climate crisis. A warming planet poses unique threats to our oceans, including coral bleaching, food chain shortages, acidification, and more. But to learn about (and help address) these issues you do not need to know an ocean scientist, legislator, or federal agency official – many answers are right in your backyard.
There are plenty of small businesses working hard to create community-oriented solutions to the various challenges facing our oceans. Depending on where you live, this may include sustainable fishing, shellfish farms, coral reef restoration projects, ocean monitoring, or general community education. Defend Our Future aims to lift up these community voices to emphasize the power of local organizing, education, and support when it comes to climate action. I want to introduce you to just one of the many organizations working to defend our lovely oceans.
On the foggy coast of Washington state rests a chain of small-but-mighty farms, not unlike the shellfish they harvest. Taylor Shellfish Farms started way back in 1890 on Totten Inlet as a small, family-run oyster farming business. Today they are still family-run – five generations and counting – but have grown in just about every other way. Taylor Shellfish Farms now has four different farming locations in Western Washington, hatcheries in Hawai’i and California, employs over 500 people, produces mussels and geoduck along with their original oysters, and distributes their products nationwide. But most importantly, they do it all with a firm commitment to sustainable practices.
All of their products are certified by Food Alliance, a third-party sustainable agriculture certifier, and marked as “Best Choices” by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide. Taylor Shellfish takes pride in this and maintaining these metrics is front of mind as they continue to grow in popularity.
Taylor Shellfish Farms will join us on Earth Day, April 22 for a Defend Our Oceans webinar event focusing on the many ways we can all work together to protect our oceans. In preparation for this event, our very own Regional Organizer Nick Haas took a trip up to Totten Inlet to tour the farm and learn more about how beneficial oyster farming can be.
Diani Taylor, a 5th generation shellfish farmer and current General Counsel for Taylor Shellfish Farms, led Nick on the tour of their Oyster Bay farm. These tidelands have been farmed by the Taylor family for over a century and Oyster Bay remains one of their most productive farms. However, the productivity of these tidelands is no accident.
The Taylor family is very careful of how they tend their lands, but they are also helped by the very things they farm. Diani explained just how much of an environmental asset shellfish can be.
“As shellfish feed and grow, they support the quality of local waters,” said Diani. “By filter feeding, they consume organic matter and plankton, contributing to improved water clarity, which in turn benefits nearby marine plants, animals, and habitat. The natural filtering provided by shellfish also helps mitigate overproduction of algae caused by high nutrient levels in the water.”
All of these benefits are critical to maintaining healthy and balanced tidelands, but even the 2.7 million oysters that Taylor Shellfish Farms harvest every year cannot protect against climate change and pollution. Diani explained that water quality, including run-off, ocean acidification, and harmful algal bloom challenges are top of mind to those in the shellfish industry.
“We are always working on solutions, but these issues are highly complex and can’t be fixed single-handedly,” said Diani.
Taylor Shellfish Farms works with many partners on these issues and is also a member of the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition (SGCC), a group that aims to enact sound climate policy and highlight how climate change affects people in their industry. Achieving meaningful climate solutions is never easy, which is why it is so important to build communities that support each other in reaching those goals.
While Taylor Shellfish Farms is incredible for the sustainable farming practices, they believe supporters like you deserve all the praise. The only reason Taylor Shellfish has been able to survive for 5 generations is because of their customers, the people supporting their clean efforts. We know that you may not live near an ocean, but that doesn’t mean your choices don’t impact it. While the saying “all drains lead to the ocean” may not be true in the literal sense, the sentiment is spot on.
What we do in our daily lives has profound impacts on our oceans. How much trash we create, the type of sunscreen we wear, what sort of chemicals we use in our home, and – of course – what seafood we eat. Choosing to purchase sustainably farmed or captured seafood (no matter where you live) ensures that you are contributing to responsible systems that plan for future generations.
As our trip to Taylor Shellfish Farms demonstrated, the issues threatening our oceans are diverse and complicated – but supporting efforts to save them is not. Join us on Earth Day, Friday, April 22 to learn about the ways you can help defend our oceans. The webinar will begin at 10 a.m. PST and we will be hearing from an incredible lineup of experts on a host of topics. Our speakers include Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), Diani Taylor, Lyf Gildersleeve from Flying Fish Sustainable Seafood, Matt Womble from Saildrone, and Tripp Funderburk from Reef Restoration Curacao.
We can’t wait to see you!