Our Vancouver

Geoducks: unique B.C. clams a booming business

The tubular clam is harvested off the shores of Tofino and is sought after by diners in Japan and China for its unique shape, flavour and properties.

Geoducks live more than 100 years and are abundant in B.C. waters

Geoducks are native to the Pacific Northwest but the demand for them is mostly from Japan and China. (James Austin)

Geoduck clams continue to catch the eye, and appetites, of a growing number of diners.

"It's always been pretty popular," said James Austin president of the Underwater Harvester's Association (UHA).  

"It's been in the Japanese market originally and in the last 25 years it's been mostly all China." 

Austin showed a few of the clams to Our Vancouver host Gloria Macarenko.

Chef Nathan Fong shows us how he prepares the delicacy 6:38

Geoducks are a $45 million dollar a year business and only so many of the clams can be harvested each year.

"We only harvest about one to one and a half per cent of the total population," said Austin, adding that the food is considered a sustainable seafood as geoducks are harvested by divers and individually picked.

A diver harvests a geoduck clam. (Underwater Harvesters Association)

Austin says geoducks sell for around $20 a pound. Shipping the bivalves to foreign markets adds to the cost.

How to cook a geoduck

Chef Nathan Fong showed Macarenko how he prepares the delicacy — serving it raw, like sushi.

"Stick it in hot boiling water for 30 seconds and it's going to blanche out the skin," he said. "You take out the skin and what's left is this tender meat."

Fong describes the "siphon" of the geoduck as firm and sweet.

"The body is softer and great for chowder," he added.

Royals split

Austin admits the food can be a hard sell at first.

During their latest Royal visit to B.C., Prince William called geoducks, "presentationally challenged," while Kate Middleton says she liked the taste.

For the Royals Fong prepared geoduck with cucumbers with a  miso-mustard sauce that included rice wine vinegar, miso, hot mustard, and lots of sugar.