Their World Is Oysters

A trip to a shellfish hatchery in Washington reveals a bustling operation.

Photo by Christopher Intagliata

I’ve slurped my share of oysters—both East Coast and West Coast varieties, with a squeeze of lemon or lime, a splash of mignonette or Tabasco. But I never thought much about how oysters are born, how they’re raised, or even what they eat. That’s where Benoit Eudeline comes in.

Related Segment

With Climate Change, No Happy Clams

He’s the research director at the Taylor Shellfish Farms hatchery in Quilcene, Washington, a tiny town on the Olympic Peninsula. At this cluster of buildings on scenic Dabob Bay, he and his colleagues hatch oysters, mussels, and geoducks, raising them from microscopic larvae into tiny “seeds,” which they send off to farms. Here’s a look inside and outside the hatchery.

Photo by Christopher Intagliata
Photo by Christopher Intagliata

Benoit Eudeline explains the oyster life cycle. Behind him, nursery tanks hold baby oysters and geoducks, or “seeds.”

Photo by Christopher Intagliata
Photo by Christopher Intagliata

Young oyster seeds.

Photo by Christopher Intagliata
Photo by Christopher Intagliata

Oyster broodstock, used to produce new generations.

Photo by Christopher Intagliata
Photo by Christopher Intagliata

Larger oyster seeds, in a nursery tank.

Photo by Christopher Intagliata
Photo by Christopher Intagliata

Eudeline monitors the pH and carbonate levels of Dabob Bay to ensure that incoming water is ideal for the hatchery’s denizens.

Photo by Christopher Intagliata
Photo by Christopher Intagliata

If necessary, Eudeline buffers the incoming seawater with sodium carbonate, which helps the tiny oysters and geoducks build their shells.

Photo by Christopher Intagliata
Photo by Christopher Intagliata

The hatchery raises many varieties of algae to feed the growing shellfish.

Photo by Christopher Intagliata
Photo by Christopher Intagliata

Twenty million shellfish larvae can live in each of these containers before they’re transferred to nursery tanks to grow into “seeds.”

Photo by Christopher Intagliata
Photo by Christopher Intagliata

Geoduck seeds, ready to move to the farm.

Photo by Christopher Intagliata
Photo by Christopher Intagliata

A fully grown geoduck, used as broodstock.

Photo by Christopher Intagliata
Photo by Christopher Intagliata

Another view of Dabob Bay.

Meet the Writer

About Christopher Intagliata

Christopher Intagliata is Science Friday’s senior producer. He once served as a prop in an optical illusion and speaks passable Ira Flatowese.

Explore More