Geoducks freshly harvested off remote waters in B.C. ( Photo by Geoduck from Canada)

B.C.’s $50 million geoduck industry hit after China’s market slumps

With more than 90 per cent of the time-sensitive harvest exported to China, geoduck harvesters see a 40 per cent business drop

The $50 million industry surrounding Canada’s “presentationally challenged” Pacific coast clam has been smacked hard by the coronavirus.

Geoducks, which gained a jolt of worldwide notoriety due to Prince William’s polite description during a 2016 visit to B.C., faced a swift blow when China shut its borders at the end of January.

“Business is down by 40 per cent ” said James Austin, president of Underwater Harvesters Association, adding that China’s economic market, which plummeted after the pandemic, has a huge direct effect on the Canadian geoduck industry.

While the the large, ridiculous-looking mollusk — the largest burrowing clam in the world — does not generate a huge demand near home waters, it is a much-sought-after delicacy in Asia. More than 90 per cent of geoducks harvested in B.C. are exported and sold to Chinese markets where the demand is huge, apparently due to its aphrodisiac properties.

Sold for anywhere between $20-$30 per pound prior to the pandemic, the price has now dropped by 30 per cent said Austin.

The high price is due to highly specialized harvesting procedures and the agile nature of its distribution. Fresh, live geoducks are supplied to Asian markets within 24 hours after being harvested by experienced divers and boxed at federally approved facilities in Vancouver.

Timely delivery plays a crucial role in the demand, said Austin. When airlines cut back international operations in February, licensed geoduck harvesters had to leave 450,000 lbs (204,000 kg) of their annual allowable catch underwater.

“There was no point in harvesting them as there was no market at that time,” said Austin, who added that the quota that was supposed to be harvested by Feb. 28, had to be extended and was completed only by May 15.

Since direct flights to China were suspended, alternative air routes had to be identified to deliver geoducks into mainland China via Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Harvested from depths of 20 to 30 metres, geoducks are found in remote waters around Vancouver Island including those around Tofino, Barkley Sound, Port McNeil and Port Hardy, as well as off Haida Gwaii and mainland B.C.

Harvesting is done year-round, to extract an annual quota of three million pounds. Before COVID-19, an average of between 10,000 lbs to 30,000 lbs of geoduck was exported every day from B.C. The demand spikes further during festivals, especially Chinese new year, Austin said.

ALSO IN NEWS: B.C.’s new COVID-19 cases total 29 during the past three days

ALSO IN NEWS: Six people arrested during Port McNeill drug investigation

Chinavancouverisland

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Weekly RCMP update: Bike thefts and persistent driving while prohibited

Campbell River RCMP detachment seeing bicycle theft as an ongoing concern

Over 21 Campbell River tourism businesses benefit from resiliency program

Vancouver Island Tourism Resiliency Program is helping businesses pivot and adapt to the COVID-19 imposed changes in industry

NIC online marine training accessed by mariners across the country

NIC was among the first post-secondary schools to receive approval for digital marine courses

Search for missing hiker suspended once again

Search for Laurence Philippsen was revived over the weekend after new information was received

NIC practical nursing students hone skills on pandemic’s front line

‘It also has become clear that this is my thing,’ – NIC practical nursing student Breanna Patterson

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Baby raccoon rescued from 10-foot deep drainage pipe on Vancouver Island

‘Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking,’ Saanich animal control officer says

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

Beloved Island woman dies at 106

Dorothy Adair adored by the many people she met in Chemainus in two short years

Man arrested for allegedly pushing unsuspecting seniors, jumping on cars at Parksville mall

Cops arrest man after ‘aggressive incident’ at Wembley Mall in Parksville

Most Read