OLYMPIA — Despite a Chinese ban on shellfish from the U.S. West Coast, the Washington geoduck industry is shipping its product to Asia, with Hong Kong and Vietnam the top destinations.
The Kitsap Sun reported that the state Department of Health issued 757 certificates in January — more than double the 373 certificates issued in January 2013, when shipments were still going to China. These certificates are required to identify the shellfish-growing area and ensure a given shipment of seafood is safe to eat.
Of the 757 certificates issued in January, 409 designated shipments into Hong Kong, and 243 designated shipments into Vietnam.
When the Chinese ban took effect Dec. 3, the Suquamish Tribe had more than 140,000 pounds left to harvest before the end of the season on March 31, laying off its 24 divers with little hope of finishing the season. However, the tribe has now resumed harvesting and is shipping to new markets, said Tony Forsman, general manager of Suquamish Seafoods.
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“Currently we are shipping to Vietnam, Hong Kong and some limited domestic markets,” he said Friday.
Taylor Shellfish Farms, based in Shelton, Mason County, is one of the largest geoduck providers in the state and usually ships half its harvested geoduck to China. After the ban went into effect, the company laid off some employees, but it has continued to ship geoduck and other shellfish to Hong Kong and other markets, company spokesman Bill Dewey said.
He estimates that sales are down about $2 million since the ban began.
U.S. import and export data for January 2014 will not be released until March 7. However, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, imports of live, fresh geoduck to Vietnam went from 16,371 pounds in December 2012 to 117,983 pounds in December 2013.
Only 103,586 pounds arrived in China in December 2013, down from 385,802 pounds in December 2012. Hong Kong saw 163,665 pounds in December 2013, compared to 202,025 pounds for the same month in 2012.
Seattle Times business reporter Coral Garnick contributed to this report.