May 23 2014
Senator: Shellfish industry is ‘a vital part of our maritime economy’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the People’s Republic of China’s decision to lift its ban on imports of Washington state geoducks. China notified the U.S. Trade Representative’s office that it had lifted the ban, which took effect Dec. 3, 2013.
“I am pleased that the People’s Republic of China has agreed to resume imports of U.S. geoduck and shellfish products,” Cantwell said. “This is great news for the shellfish industry, which is a vital part of our maritime economy in Washington state and supports thousands of jobs. Since most of our geoduck exports go to China, this will be a major step forward.”
Geoducks are hugely popular in China, where about 90 percent of Puget Sound geoducks are exported. But Chinese officials banned imports after two shipments of geoducks were flagged for potential toxins. U.S. officials disputed the accuracy of the results and found that the shellfish were safe to eat. U.S. officials worked with stakeholders, tribes, academics and Chinese officials to conduct additional monitoring and develop specific seafood testing protocols for geoducks that will be exported to China.
Cantwell sent a letter on Dec. 20 to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Trade Representative requesting immediate action to resolve the geoduck ban. Signing the letter from Washington state’s delegation were Rep. Derek Kilmer, (D-WA-06), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03), Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA-10), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA-02), Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-08), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA-07), and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA-09). Other members who signed included Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR-04), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA-05), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA-20).
The agencies worked with shellfish growers to develop a plan to monitor shellfish for certain toxins before they are exported. China approved the plan this week.
The ban included geoducks and other bivalve seafood products, including oysters, clams and mussels from Washington, Oregon, Northern California and Alaska.
Washington state’s $270 million shellfish industry supports more 3,000 jobs in the state’s coastal communities. Shellfish farming is the largest employer in Pacific County and is the second largest employer in Mason County.