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

Smokey Port painted by D.F. Gray during the eighth annual Paint Out. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni’s DRAW Gallery celebrates art online and in person

Fall in Love With Art! exhibit runs until Nov. 27

Mount Arrowsmith rises over the City of Port Alberni in its late summer splendour. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
More funding available through Alberni Valley Community Foundation

$30K available for charities responding to COVID-19; deadline is Oct. 30

Alberni District Secondary School principal Rob Souther, ADSS Breakfast Club Coordinator Melody Burton, Andrew Johns and employees William Dorr and Erika Salvino celebrate Johns’ donation of $5,000 to the breakfast club. (SONJA DRINKWATER/ Special to the AV News)
SCENE AND HEARD: Feeding Alberni Valley residents one dollar at a time

Local organizations benefit from charitable donations

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. sees record-breaking daily COVID infections with 499 new cases over weekend

Two people, both in the Lower Mainland, died due to the virus over the weekend

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Most Read