Meet the Nisbet’s of Willapa Bay
Nisbet Oyster Co., Inc.
THE HISTORY OF OUR FAMILY CANNERY
In 1975, David and Maureene Nisbet began farming a mere 10 acres of tideland in the southwest corner of Washington known as Willapa Bay. With totes of iced oysters in the back of a single pickup truck, the Nisbet Oyster Co., Inc. captivated the taste buds and hearts of local seafood connoisseurs from Seattle, WA to Portland, OR and beyond.
Until 1978, when David, and Maureene Nisbet purchased a 400 square-foot processing plant, the Nisbet Oyster Co., Inc.’s product line was limited to shell-stock oysters. With technology on the rise, this purchase marked a new beginning for his company, expanding its product line to include shucked oysters as well. The rest is, well, history.
Our northwest oyster estuary
The vibrant and pristine coastal-plain estuary of Willapa Bay, known for its highly productive ecosystem and abundance of farmed oysters, has supported more than a century of shellfisheries. Influenced by the nutrient- and phytoplankton-rich waters of the adjacent Pacific Ocean, and combined with the clean waters of the Niawiakum River, Willapa Bay is one of the largest and most healthy estuaries in the continental United States. Great news, right? Absolutely! For, the specific salinity, temperature and nutrient makeup of the entire watershed that surrounds an oyster’s habitat considerably impacts an oyster’s color, flavor, texture and meatiness. The oysters you enjoy are a product of the environments from which they originate: the landscape in which they grow and the decisions of their surrounding communities.
All shellfish are filter feeders, which means they pump massive amounts of water and nutrients through themselves to feed. In turn, shellfish are extremely sensitive to the water quality they ingest and require the most pristine of habitats in which to grow. Thus, much of the shellfish industry thrives on the fresh, clean waters of Willapa Bay to produce quality products. Oyster companies depend on Willapa Bay as a reliable source for exceptionally tasty oysters. These companies also understand, however, that in order to utilize this source on a daily basis, they must protect it as well. The long-standing, time-tested relationship between the oysters of WIllapa Bay and the residents who harvest them is one to be respected and reflected upon. For the early settlers of the region, oysters were an abundant source of food. The Ostrea lurida, also known as the Olympia oyster (native to the Pacific Northwest), was one of the first oysters to be harvested and traded. The oyster trade continued into 1870 until the numbers of oysters began to diminish due to harvesting pressure. The decline of the Olympia oyster forced residents to cultivate oysters elsewhere. Thus, the first oyster farms began to appear in Willapa Bay. Unfortunately, the population of Olympia oysters continued to decline until 1891 when the State of Washington passed legislation that allowed oyster farmers to purchase areas of land on which to grow and harvest oysters. Consequently, many oyster farmers of Willapa Bay now own the tidelands in which their oysters are cultivated. This unique private ownership motivates and encourages farmers to protect and nurture the surrounding environment in which their oysters grow. In turn, a healthy, balanced and well-maintained ecosystem provides the same oystermen with the water conditions necessary for the successful propagation of oysters, again and again.
FAMILY FARM & CANNERY
Currently owned by David and Maureene Nisbet and operated by two generations of oyster farmers, Nisbet Oyster Co., Inc. employs 70 full-time men and women on the 500-acre farm and in the 15,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art processing plant (considered a model facility by both the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Washington State Department of Health, Shellfish Division) and processes over 2 million pounds of shellfish annually. Goose Point is the registered trademark of the Nisbet Oyster Co., Inc.. Oysters are marketed and sold to consumers under the Goose Point label and are available in our online store, at our retail shop on Willapa Bay and in grocery stores worldwide.