Seattle, WA – China has ended a seven month-long ban of live shellfish harvested from US West Coast waters.
The ban on the import of “double shell aquatic animals” – namely oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops – harvested from Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Northern California was imposed after Chinese food inspectors reportedly detected high levels of inorganic arsenic in geoducks from Puget Sound.
China said it had also found paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), a biotoxin sometimes found in the algae consumed by shellfish, in geoduck clams harvested in Alaska.
High levels of inorganic arsenic and PSP were not found in the shellfish sourced in Washington, Oregon and California.
Geoducks – also known as ‘gooeyducks’ – are a species of large, burrowing, edible salt water clams that can fetch up to $50 per pound and are considered a delicacy in Asia.
China alone routinely imports about 90 percent of the 7 million pounds of geoduck harvested in Washington state annually.
The country “is a key export market for our region’s shellfish, and this news means greater economic stability for the workers and families in our region,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Washington) in a press statement.
“I look forward to working closely with federal, state, local and tribal stakeholders to ensure that the new testing and monitoring requirements can be swiftly implemented and we can get back to shipping world-famous Washington shellfish to a major market,” he said.
Following the ban, Kilmer served as a member of a bi-partisan Congressional delegation that urged the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop new procedures to monitor shellfish inspection and certification.
At the same time the ban was lifted, Beijing said it would send a team of food-safety officials to the US to monitor the testing of shellfish slated for export to China.