by Kate Briggs
Geoducks appear to be just a simple clam with a longer neck than usual. But these creatures are very fascinating. Geoducks are not ducks in any way, shape, or form. It is actually a member to the Mollusca family under the class Bivalve.
You can find these creatures everywhere in the Puget Sound (also in British Columbia and Alaska). There are about 109 million adult Geoducks that live in sediments; it is the largest amount of an animal in the Sound. Geoducks are disappearing fast. Commercial fishermen harvest 2 million pounds or $10 million worth from the Puget Sound alone.
These exciting animals are most abundant everywhere in southern areas of the Puget Sound. In these places they can be found in fine mud all the way to sand and sometimes even gravel. Some even can be found burrowing in eelgrass. From a feet to 360 feet in depth of water they can be seen with 1-3 inches of siphon (neck) showing. The biggest ones are found in about in to 70 feet of water.
Geoduck (pronounced “gooey-d1kk~ not gee-oh-duck”) comes from a Native American tribe meaning “to dig deep.” Which they can, up to one meter. A Geoduck’s siphon can stretch up to 39 inches long and often get so large that their whole body does not entirely fit into the shell. Weighing between 3 pounds (the maximum weight documented was 7.15 pounds).
Although these creatures weigh up to 7.15 pounds they only eat phytoplankton. Geoducks can get very old; the oldest was documented at the age of 147 years. A Geoduck’s age is determined quite like trees, by counting its annual growth rings on the shell (instead of the trunk). The average Geoduck is about 46 years.
The Geoduck is disappearing. The Geoduck harvest is the largest clam fishery on the West Coast. A diver can harvest 800 clams in a day, that’s faster then one a minute and 50 to 60 people are employed in the Washington harvesting Industry. A harvest takes about 10,000 Geoducks per acre and after harvested it takes a total of 39 years to recover the wasted Geoduck bed. In British Columbia people have been harvesting Geoducks since 1976. In 1987 there was about 3,735 tons but they have declined to only 2,000 per year. As you can see Geoducks are reducing each year by a tremendous amount. Already we have lost 1,735 tons in 15 years. I love this creature and wish it to stay with us a long time, do as much as possible to keep it alive.
West Sound Academy