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LocalGeoducks on the Decline

September 1, 2012

Earlier this year, state biologists found that geoducks, a type of clam living only on the Northwest Coast, were rapidly disappearing. These ugly clams with long necks have a sweet but salty taste and sell for as high as $150 per pound in China. These huge profits have attracted illegal harvesting and exporting.

In Washington, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages the harvesting of geoducks (pronounced “gooey ducks”). Biologists from DNR survey the geoduck harvest beds called “tracts.” Then commercial fishermen pay for the right to harvest geoducks from about 20-25 available tracts. Washington State earned 28 million dollars last year from geoducks.

However, poachers (thieves) have been actively emptying the tracts of geoducks. The thieves who dig the geoducks by night fly them to China as soon as they are harvested. In fact, according to state biologists, about 800,000 pounds of geoducks in one tract alone have recently vanished. And with less than 30 officers patrolling the coast, geoduck poaching is increasing .

Sadly these clams are not growing back. With a life span of 150 years, geoducks grow very slowly. And once the geoducks are removed from their muddy beds, it takes years for the area to recover.

While native Americans in the Northwest have been eating geoducks for hundreds of years, almost no one outside the tribes had heard of this fat long-necked shellfish till a Navy diver discovered it in 1960. Now rich Chinese are crazy about geoducks because of the crispy texture and sweet clammy taste. Demand there for geoducks has more than doubled in the past five years with prices going up fast.

Developed by Yao Pu

Published September 2012

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