Chinese ban on shellfish still hurting Washington economy

Staff writerJanuary 21, 2014 

Workers with Seattle Shellfish unload bags of geoduck planting tubes Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 near their Harstine Island growing beds in Mason County as the company deals with China's ban on imports of shellfish from the West Coast.

STEVE BLOOM — The Olympian Buy Photo

A Chinese ban on U.S. shellfish imports has hit Washington state shellfish growers, and so far, there’s no end in sight.

Since a ban was imposed on shellfish imports from the West Coast in December, Washington state has lost $976,000 in revenue, said Matthew Randazzo, senior advisor to the Commissioner of Public Lands.

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee heard an update on the ban from Randazzo and Jerrod Davis Tuesday. Davis is the Director of the Office of Shellfish and Water Protections within the Department of Health.

The shellfish ban encompasses all of Alaska, Washington and Oregon, while Northern California is also subject to clam, oyster, geoduck and other two-shelled bivalve ban.

Since the Department of Health was alerted of the shellfish ban in early December, Washington state shellfish growers have been missing out on thousands of dollars of revenue. Washington geoducks account for half of the worldwide market.

The ban comes at a critical point in the shellfish harvest calendar. The Chinese New Year occurs on January 31, and Washington growers heavily depend on the revenue from shellfish sales during this time.

“We can’t guess how much will be lost,” said Randazzo.

Davis said the department of Health was informed in early December of the ban, and traced the problematic shellfish to two shipments: one from Alaska and one from Washington.

The Washington shipment was traced to a geoduck farm in Poverty Bay, near Redondo in Federal Way. Chinese officials contend that the geoducks from the Poverty Bay site had levels of arsenic that were deemed unsuitable for human consumption.

The state Department of Health partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to test samples pulled from Poverty Bay and found that “there were no problems at the harvest site,” said Davis. Davis said that of the samples tested, the edible portions were “well below China’s standard” for maximum acceptable levels of arsenic.

Davis told committee members Tuesday that since the results of the tests have been sent to the Chinese government, there has been no official response or time frame for when they will begin accepting Washington shellfish again.

“No questions [have been] posed by China...we have not received a response,” Davis said.

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