|Geoduck collected for research. Photo credit: J. Barber|
The geoduck clam (Panopea generosa) occurs in large numbers in soft substrate throughout the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the San Juan Islands, and Puget Sound. This long-lived clam (e.g., up to 170+ years old) can be found at depths ranging from +1 to -300 ft across the Salish Sea. One geoduck, aged 158 years old, would have recruited to the sandy bottom of Puget Sound around the year the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Abraham Lincoln.
The commercial dive fishery supports a large overseas market with most of the product shipped live to countries throughout Asia. Dive harvest is restricted to depths between 15 & 70 ft deep, with occasional adjustments made to the shallow depth due to eelgrass presence. Harvest is done by hand using a high pressure water jet or “stinger” and no size limit exists in this fishery. The management year for geoduck runs from April 1 through March 31 the following year and the fishery can be conducted year round.
In addition to monitoring and managing this fishery, Swinomish Fisheries staff conduct subtidal surveys on specific geoduck tracts in order to estimate biomass for the species. To accomplish this, Swinomish scientific divers swim along transects running from 70 to 15 ft, counting geoducks within a 3 ft wide section. Transects are laid every 1,000 ft for the entire width of the tract. Additionally, eelgrass surveys are done along the shallow edge of the tract to exclude areas of eelgrass habitat from the harvestable area.