WILLAPA BAY - Kumamoto oysters, (more commonly referred to as Kumos) are being grown in Willapa Bay by Taylor Resources of Nachotta.

Kumos are giants among oysters, but not because they're big. They are, in fact, quite small, only slightly larger than the tiny native oysters. With their deep cup, highly sculptured, fluted shell and its smooth flavor, the Kumo has a strong following in Portland and Puget Sound areas. Taylor Resources Willapa Bay Manager Mark Weigardt is confident the Willapa Bay Kumos will find their following on the Discovery Coast.

"They're one of the best oysters I've ever had," said Wiegardt.

Willapa Bay Kumos grown by Taylor Resources start their life in hatcheries. The cultch oysters begin their life in the Whiskey Creek Hatchery in Netarts, Ore. These Kumos are brought from the Whiskey Creek hatchery to Taylor Resources' Nachotta seed-setting facility when they are microscopic larvae. Hatchery Manager Carlos Nunez supervises as the Kumo larvae is put in setting tanks that contain old oyster shells in mesh bags. When the Kumos larvae have attached to the old shells, and grown to a survivable age, they are planted on long lines. The long lines are placed on plastic pipes in Willapa Bay. After the oysters have reached a marketable size - this takes about three years for Kumos - the oysters are separated and made ready for sale.

"The Kumos break away from the shell much easier than the Pacifics," said Wiegardt. "Unlike the Pacifics, they retain a nice shape even when on cultch."

The cultch-less Kumos live their first four months in Taylor United's Shelton hatchery. When these Kumos reach the size of a dime, they are planted on relatively stable pieces of Willapa Bay tideland. Approximately 30 percent of these bottom-grown Kumos survive to market size. They develop walnut-like shells that are constant in shape and size. Kumos are harvested, graded and washed by hand before being delivered to market.

Taylor Resources' parent company is Taylor United of Shelton, and it cultivates a greater variety of shellfish than any other shellfish grower. It grows shellfish throughout Washington, in Hawaii, Baja Mexico and Fuji and is the largest manila clam producer in the U.S. Taylor United bought the tidelands, equipment and upland properties that make up Taylor Resources from E.H. Bendiksen in 1997. The tideland purchased totals 5,500 acres.

Taylor Resources is staffed with experienced shellfish veterans with strong ties to Willapa Bay. Floyd Poe, captain of the Hawks Point, has worked in and on Willapa Bay for 50 years. Mark Wiegardt is a fourth-generation Willapa Bay oyster farmer. Mike and Phil Stamp are third-generation Willapa Bay oyster farmers. Phil is oyster manager for the Nachotta area. Ed Hill is the area manager for clam operations.

"Our goal is to grow and promote premium Willapa Bay shellfish" said Mark Weigardt.

Willapa Bay Kumos are distributed by Taylor Resources on the Discovery Coast area along with their other Willapa grown products: Pacific oysters and Manila clams. For more information call 665-5625.

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