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

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Buyers across the province will soon be able to pick up a… Continue reading

Minivan driver’s speed a factor in fatal 2018 Malahat crash

Driver was travelling at 101 km/h in a construction zone

Business notes: Downtown Duncan open-air food court opens

What’s happening in Cowichan’s business community

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

Comox Valley RCMP looking for missing woman

Ami Guthrie was last seen in Courtenay in early July

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Most Read