Merroir: Oregon’s Distinct Oysters

Xin Liu peers out across the steely-blue waters of Yaquina Bay, where long-legged herons wade and a winter mist drifts to shore. It’s here, he promises, you can get a taste of place like no other.

“Yaquina Bay oysters are unique because they grow in this small estuary,” Liu says. “There’s a lot of water exchange daily. With low tides comes fresh water, and with the high tide, salt water rushes in.”

Located upriver from Newport, this deep-water estuary has been a haven for growing oysters since the farm was established by the Wachsmuth family in 1907 to supply oysters for Dan and Louis Oyster Bar. Liu learned this when he came to Oregon in 1992. A career academic, he left a teaching position at the Ocean University of China in 1992 to pursue doctoral studies at Oregon State University. His research at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport focused on genetic diversity in oysters. In 1997, he became a full-time oyster farmer for Oregon Oyster Farms, the state’s longest-standing operation of its kind.

“Here we have pristine water and a dynamic ecosystem that provides good food for the oysters to eat,” Liu says. His 500-acre farm has minimal freshwater inputs, which keeps the water clean of predators at bay (like starfish and Japanese oyster drills).

But even with these distinct qualities, Yaquina Bay does have one thing in common with many other spots on the Oregon Coast — it’s a place where oysters thrive.

Travel Oregon | April 2017
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