Outlook 2017: Taylor Shellfish's Bill Dewey

Exciting things ahead for the farmer, from regulations to the marketplace.

Taylor Shellfish Director of Public Affairs Bill Dewey tells IntraFish the company has exciting things on the horizon, from regulatory wins to opening up a new oyster bar.

What were the three most significant developments for your business in the seafood industry in 2016?

1. An excellent year for producing oyster and other shellfish seed. After some challenging years generating oyster seed, it was exciting to have a year with good seed production.

2. Achieving (first in the country) Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification for a number of our farms. We continue to work with ASC and look forward to certifying another large block of our farms in coming months and eventually all of them. The Taylor family has a long history of stewardship for the environment in which we work and to our employees. The ASC certification provides third party accountability for that and commits us to continual improvement.

3. After a 21-year process we finally got the permits for a new mussel farm in Totten Inlet, Washington. We may have the distinct honor of taking the longest and spending the most money (about $2 million/€1.9 million) to get a new aquaculture site permitted. It is not a particularly honorable badge to wear. It should be an embarrassment to Washington State and the country that something like this could happen.

Looking ahead, what will be the three most important developments in 2017?

1. Opening of another Taylor Shellfish Farms oyster bar in Bellevue

2. Our fingers are crossed for some progress on the regulatory front. It is extremely challenging to get permits for new and expanded shellfish farms. This has forced Taylors in recent years to expand production in British Columbia. While that has turned out to be an outstanding opportunity, we hope to see progress in 2017 under the National and Washington Shellfish Initiatives that will provide shellfish growers with efficient, timely and cost effective permitting so we can expand our business at home in Washington.

3. Breaking ground on a large closed recirculating seawater system at our Shelton processing facilities that will allow us to hold shellfish in controlled temperature sea water. We are confident based on research we and others have been conducting over the past couple of years that this will allow us to deliver a higher quality oyster while significantly reducing the likelihood of illnesses from the naturally occurring bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

What changes and developments do you expect your business to undergo next year?

1. We continue to refine our oyster seed and single oyster production systems and are excited about the outcome of these efforts. The new sea water holding system will also be a huge change to how we handle and hold our oysters destined for live sales. These efforts are really going to improve the quality of the product we have to offer.

2. We don’t expect any miracles on the permitting front but are hopeful the Trump Administration might facilitate some positive change there. We of course are also fearful of potential backsliding under the new administration on environmental protections that we rely on for water quality in our growing areas and on climate change/ocean acidification.

3. We are embarking on a new approach to oyster breeding. We have been motivated to do this defensively in light of the threat of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) arriving at our shores. This disease has recently devastated the oyster industries in France, New Zealand and Australia and we fear it is only a matter of time before it strikes here.

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