Oysters spawn and set naturally in the environment, but they must have specific conditions (water temperature, salinity) for this to happen. Many years in Willapa Bay these conditions are not present. We do not rely on “natural” set oysters anymore, but use oyster seed started in a hatchery. We buy most of our Pacific oyster seed from a hatchery facility located in Netarts, Oregon, the Whiskey Creek Hatchery. The hatchery takes a male and a female oyster and makes them spawn, creating the baby larvae. The larvae at this stage grow in the water column, swimming freely. After about 2 weeks they start to look for a place to settle and attach, like a barnacle. The hatchery collects the larvae at this stage and ships it to the nursery.
The Whiskey Creek Hatchery also grows a triploid oyster. They take female and male oysters and fertilize the eggs with a special male. The triploid oyster is like a seedless watermelon, unable to reproduce. This allows the oyster to be like a “winter” oyster year round, being firm and sweet even during the warmer summer months.