The world’s first geoduck fishery was created in 1970, but demand for the half-forgotten clam was low due to its texture. Today, they sell in Asia for up to US$168/lb (US$370/kg). It’s large, meaty siphon is prized for its savory flavor and crunchy texture. Geoduck is also regarded by some as an aphrodisiac due to its phallic shape. It is very popular in China, where it is considered a delicacy, mostly eaten cooked in a fondue-style Chinese hot pot. In Korean cuisine, geoducks are eaten raw with spicy chili sauce, sautéed, or in soups and stews. In Japan geoduck is prepared as raw sashimi, dipped in soy sauce and wasabi. On Japanese menus, geoduck is called mirugai or mirukuigai and is considered to have a texture similar to an ark shell (known in Japanese as akagai). It is worth noticing that although mirugai is sometimes translated to English as “giant clam”, it is distinguished from himejako sushi made from tridacna gigas.
The geoduck’s high market value has created an $80 million U.S. industry, with harvesting occurring in both Washington state and the province of British Columbia. It is one of the most closely regulated fisheries in both countries; in Washington, Department of Natural Resources staff are on the water continually monitoring harvests in order to assure revenues are received, and the same is true in Canada where the Underwater Harvesters’ Association manages the Canadian Fishery in conjunction with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The Washington State Department of Health tests water and flesh in order to assure clams are not filtering and holding pollutants, an ongoing problem.
As of the 2007 season, advances in the testing system for contaminated clams have allowed geoduck harvesters to deliver live clams more consistently. The new testing system determines the viability of clams from tested beds before the harvesters fish the area. Previous methods tested clams after harvest. This advancement has meant that 90 percent of clams were delivered live to market in 2007. In 2001 only 10 percent were live. Because geoduck have a much higher market value live—an additional $2 to $3 per pound—this development has helped to stimulate the burgeoning industry.