Washington State: Geoduck farming on the Puget Sound

 

Every state seems to have its idiosyncrasies. Arizona, its dry heat; Nevada, its exploding population; Massachusetts, its colonial history; Minnesota, its lakes. The state of Washington, which I’ve visited, has several. Among them are extreme wealth, lumbering mania, and – one I never heard of until I visited – clam-like animals called geoducks (pronounced “gooey” ducks).

They are grown on the beaches of the Puget Sound. Geoduck farmers take four-inch diameter plastic pipe, cut it into foot-long sections, and drive thousands of these into the sand at the medium-high tide mark. They then place a baby geoduck inside each of these mini-corrals. Incoming tides carry tiny floating sea organisms that the geoducks eat. After a year or two the geoducks grow to saleable size. China is a major market for these bizzare-looking animals. They consider them a dining delicacy and pay up to $35 a pound retail for them. That’s the good news.

The other news is that a lot of people don’t appreciate seeing acre upon acre of shoreline “planted” with white PVC pipes sticking up out of the sand. It is estimated that there are over 100 million geoducks being raised on the beaches of the Puget Sound. Each has a pipe. The Sound is one of the few places where these things will grow. The tide is right; the water temperature is right; sufficient numbers of organisms are in the water for the geoducks to eat.

The money trail will surely dictate whether these geoduck farms will remain. In fact, $35 a pound suggests they’ll expand.

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