Dobby and Ken Wiegard represent the fourth and fifth generations of a family of Pacific Northwest oystermen. Though he’s now retired from the family business, Dobby hauls a thousand pounds of gravel out to his clam beds every day the weather allows. And he continues to raise shellfish in the legendarily pure waters of Willapa Bay in the southwest corner of Washington.
Ken has taken over operations of the family oyster business, which he hopes to pass on to the next generation of Weigardt oystermen.
But pollution upstream and a changing ocean is challenging the shellfish industry. Dobby’s son, Mark Wiegardt, runs Whisky Creek Shellfish Hatchery on Oregon’s Netarts Bay. Since 2007, when Pacific oyster larvae at the hatchery began dying en masse, he’s been working with Oregon State scientists to learn ways to deal with ocean acidification and its effects on the Pacific oyster.
The family’s legacy depends on the vast bounty of the Northwest coast and the careful stewardship of those who make their lives — and their livelihoods — in these waters.
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