Geoduck: Meet The Famous Giant Clam

The creature in the picture is called a geoduck!!

What is a geoduck?

geoduck

The Evergreen State College, Geoduck held in two hands, CC BY 4.0

Geoducks (pronounced gooey ducks) are the biggest mollusks on earth!!! They live in sandy sea bottoms between 2 and 4 feet deep.  The giant clams are sedentary animals and eat phytoplankton that they filter through their “siphon” in the surrounding water.

They breed during winter via external fecundation during which males and females free their sperm and ovum in water where the fecundation takes place. Larvae stay suspended at the mercy of water streams during several weeks.  When they finally settle in the bottom of the sea, they sink down in the substratum and stay there all their life.

Little geoducks are very vulnerable to predators like crabs and starfish. They only become safe when they reach a depth of 2 feet. Geoducks reach their adult size at the age of 3 years and can live 100 years. Their average weight is 2 lbs. but the biggest ones can be as heavy as 10 lbs.

Geoduck’s siphon has a distinctive characteristic. It is so big it cannot entirely go in the shell.

The siphon and the breast are the eatable parts of the geoduck.

Fishing geoducks

geoduck fishing

Photo credit: K Tao via Visual Hunt / CC BY-ND

Fishing geoducks is not a risk free maneuver. Divers need sometimes to go as deep as 60 feet to extract them one by one. To remove the surrounding mud, they use special high pressure water hose called a “stinger”.  Once the giant clams arrive at the surface, they are carefully documented before being sent to markets.

Geoduck culinary attributes

geoduck meal

Photo credit: cchen via Visual Hunt / CC BY-ND

Initially, geoducks were used in fish soups. Today, they are the first choice of Asian gastronomic restaurants.

Geoducks are most appreciated for their gustatory qualities in China and Japan. The sweet taste and crunchy texture easily seduces the Asian experts. It is usually served on skewers or sauté. But it can also consumed raw in sushi.  Elsewhere in the world, geoducks are not as appreciated. They may seem grotesque to many. But to Canadian buyers who work hard to find some of these sea animals to Asia where they are a luxurious meal for medium class people. They are even a symbol of social status along with luxury bags and cars.

Geoduck industry

Before geoducks became popular, everybody neglected them. Fishermen used to find them in their nets and throw them back in the ocean. They weren’t worth anything. It is only when Chinese demand grew that their prices climbed to 5 dollar per lbs.

Since then, the situation changed drastically. Geoducks went from being a worthless creature to a well-protected sea animal. As the Canadian pacific coasts contain the biggest stocks of geoducks all over the world, the government established special protection programs which strictly control fishing them. Fisheries have a limit of 30 million lbs. Moreover, the government granted only 55 fishing licenses.

Nowadays, thanks to the growing demand, the industry is worth 60 million dollars. As experts forsee more demand in the future, the industry size is surely going to be even bigger. Because of the Asian interest, geoducks continue to create the sensation. In other words, the international market turned waste into gold.

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