Harvesting area closed after tainted clams traced to Poverty Bay

Harvesting area closed after tainted clams traced to Poverty Bay
FILE Photo: Geoduck harvest returns to Whidbey Island after long hiatus, Jan 23, 2013.
OLYMPIA, Wash.- Washington state officials on Friday shut down commercial geoduck clam harvesting on 135 acres of state-owned aquatic land while they investigate toxicity concerns that prompted China to ban West Coast shellfish.

In early December, the state learned that China had banned the import of clams, oysters, mussels and scallops from much of the North American West Coast, saying it had detected paralytic shellfish poison and arsenic in the giant clams.

State officials learned this week that Chinese authorities detected arsenic in a shipment of geoduck clams from Washington. The state Health Department traced that shipment back to clams harvested in October by the Puyallup Tribe in Poverty Bay, near Federal Way, on the 135-acre parcel the state calls the Redondo Tract.

"Effective immediately, DNR has closed the Redondo tract, a 135-acre area of state-owned aquatic lands in Puget Sound managed by DNR, to commercial harvest of geoducks, and the Puyallup Tribe has concurred," a statement from DNR said.

State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark commended the Puyallup Tribe's "swift action" in suspending its usual harvesting on the parcel. Together with the state Department of Natural Resources' action, "this means that no geoducks from the area at issue can enter the stream of commerce, domestically or internationally," Goldmark said Friday in a statement.

Natural Resources manages more than 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands and sells the right to harvest geoduck.

The agency "is working with sister agencies, including the state Department of Health and (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), as well as tribal and industry partners, to investigate China's concerns," Goldmark said. "We know this has been a hardship on our state's shellfish industry, and we will work diligently to find resolution as quickly as possible."