Sounds Wild
Geoducks

Audio

Download Episode: Geoducks (MP3 file 1,407 kB)

Transcript

Geoducks

A light surf rolls in on a sandy beach in Southeast Alaska. Just offshore, under the blue green water - and under the sandy ocean floor, is a clam bed. These aren't ordinary clams; these are geoducks - pronounced gooeyducks. Gooeyduck clams are the world's largest burrowing clam. They live deep in the sand, up to 3 feet deep, and use a large siphon to filter food out of the water. That siphon, like a long hose, is much bigger than the body of the clam itself, which might be the size of a softball. Geoducks can potentially live a long time. One animal aged by Fish and Game was 146 years old.

There is an important commercial fishery for geoducks in Alaska. A geoduck is harvested by a diver using a water pump. Water pressure liquefies the sand, and then the diver reaches into the slurry of loose sand and pulls out the clam. The harvested clams are brought to the dock alive and immediately boxed for shipment to market, often to Asia. By the time these animals get to the consumer they may cost up to $100 each. They may be served as sushi in high end restaurants or put into an aquarium where a patron can point out the geoduck they want.

Getting top dollar for this clam depends on the animal getting it to market alive. In 2015, divers received around $4.50 a pound, but at times the price has reached 20 dollars a pound. A geoduck averages around 2.5 pounds so it ends up being worth 10 to 15 dollars an animal, and in peak years as much as $50 apiece.