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China Imposes First Ever Ban on Shelfish from West Coast Waters

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  1. There's something laughable about China complaining about impure fish. I'm sure there is a backstory behind this - probably some tit-for-tat retaliation for trade restrictions on Chinese products. That's usually how it works.
    It would be a treat to see more geoduck available here in the US, perhaps at lower prices. It is delicious!

    30 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      I'm sure you're right, veggo. As a friend said "the irony of the day." There has to be more to this. I have never had geoduck, even when living in Singapore. It's an odd looking creature. How does one eat it?

      1. re: sandiasingh

        It is most commonly eaten as mirugai, premium priced giant clam nigiri sushi. So delicious, I always ask and if it's available I treat myself.

        1. re: Veggo

          I'm a timid sushi eater so that explains it.

          Perhaps this is where the term "odd duck" originated?

          1. re: sandiasingh

            As I pointed out below, in no way is it only for sushi. As a matter of fact, I'm guessing that the majority that is eaten in the US is cooked.

            1. re: c oliver

              Geoduck is actually substituted for the real thing, Tresus keenae, at cheaper Japanese sushi places.

          2. re: Veggo

            I really miss mirugai at the sushi bars, it was one of my favorites, b ut will have to stop eating it due to overfishing. It's a bitch being environmentally responsible, but a burden I'm reluctantly willing to bear. As always. Shark steaks, chilean sea bass, mirugai, and others, I can't eat them when I know they're endangered.

            1. re: EWSflash

              According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium it's a "best choice":


              'Course it may be the fake stuff. Yes?

              1. re: EWSflash

                I'm a Janis Joplin fan when it comes to Chilean sea bass and mirugai. Get it while you can. And I don't feel like a rat with my fellow divers, there are critters I will defend to my last breath.

                1. re: Veggo

                  I just can't eat mirugai or Chilean sea bass or shark or anything that got renamed or refamed and suffered near-extinction because of their fabulous flavor. I just feel that it's wrong, and hope that somebody somewhere is making inroads to increase their populations.
                  In 1976 I visited my old roommate that had moved to Alaska's Kenai peninsula. We went clamming at Clam Gulch, and got a bucket of big fat razor clams, despite the fact that our clam shovels both broke at the hub within ten minutes, and dug like dogs for our catch for hours. They were 5-9" long. She recently told me she went to clam gulch again, and all the clams are 3-4" due to overharvesting over the years. I'm totally in favor of shutting down areas to fishing/clamming for a couple of years or more, if indicated, especially in non-poverty areas, like most of Alaska. Those areas should be seriously curtailed for a while. And the fishermen should have a shot at temporary jobs elsewhere.

                  1. re: EWSflash

                    Mirugai are doing fine. All the ones available near me are clearly farmed (small, thin, perfect shells), but taste as good as the wild, if fresh enough.

                    1. re: EricMM

                      That was the impression I had from reading also.

                      1. re: EricMM

                        It was a little surprising to read this, since I haven't seen mirugai at a sushi bar in over 20 years (and I always look for it). I'm always told it isn't available, nearly extinct, unaffordable, et cetera. I'd buy it in a half-second if I could get my hands on it, I had no idea that it was being farmed in the Pacific northwest.
                        Has the whole batch been going to China? Are US vendors going to take up the slack? With some clever marketing, I think the geoduck farms are sitting on a gold mine.

                        1. re: EWSflash

                          I've always been told that they don't have it because the price is too high, and for most places, the demand too low. Unfortunately, the typical sushi customer in my area just wants fancy rolls with the same old boring ingredients. The only way to get the things I'd like is to go to the Manhattan sushi places I can't possibly afford. Otherwise, the typical sushi place is a tuna and salmon wasteland.....

                          1. re: EricMM

                            That's sad. Mirugai is one of my favorites.

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              I still find it, but not at the el-cheapo places. It's usually my first question.

                          2. re: EWSflash

                            But American consumers aren't as interested in the reputed aphrodisiac qualities of their food, and they also do not relish textural contrasts.

                            1. re: paulj

                              Yes, those Americans who need a little help wisely use little pills that are field tested and work, rather than relying on ancient myths about powdered rhino horns and shark fins. As for mirugai, I think it has a wonderful, almost unique texture.

                  1. re: sandiasingh

                    It's a fine chowder clam. It can also be sliced then fried like a razor clam.

                    1. re: GH1618

                      When Bob used to dig them, they would pound them, cut in strips and fry.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Cheers to that, c oliver. Sliced and pounded, they make killer linguini with clam sauce. Also we like to chop finely and make stuffed clams and clam cakes. Never met a geoduck that I didn't like

                    2. re: sandiasingh

                      Geoduck (mirugai) is my favorite sashimi. It is almost impossible to find at most of my local sushi places- as sushi has gotten popular, selection now seems to be limited to boring tuna, salmon, and yellowtail...mostly in ridiculous overstuffed rolls. When I first started eating sushi/sashimi many years ago, nearly every place carried it, along with other interesting stuff. Now I buy it live at the Asian markets, if it looks fresh (tight, compact "siphon") and is less than the all too frequent $30/lb. The siphon is eaten raw, thinly sliced...cooking it toughens it up. The belly and belly meat are good floured and fried in butter, like Ipswitch steamers, but the bellies on the bigger ones can get sort of gross.

                    3. re: Veggo

                      Well, Darlin'... '-) (private joke) I wouldn't be too sure about that... I'll play devil's advocate (Gee! What a BIG surprise!) and offer this piece about how pollution of the ocean and all creatures in it is impacting on the peoples of the Pacific Northwest of the far arctic regions and the devastating impact on their diet:


                      When you stop and analyze THAT information, then take into consideration that due to the geological FACT that arctic waters (Humboldt Current, and all that jazz) POURS all of those polluted waters down the west coast of the United States AND Canada through long shore drift (the geophysical action that put sand on our beaches!) then....

                      Well, toe bone *IS* connected tot the foot bone! Looking at the export data of commercially harvested geoducks to the rest of the world, it is MORE than reasonable to assume that the general population of China has a MASSIVE per capita consumption of geoducks in their diet that Americans simply dont share. And we all also know that our beloved and wonderful government (sarcasm in case anyone has missed it) is not above missing out on providing us with the BIG PICTURE when it comes to pollution contaminated food...

                      Well, see where I'm going?

                      My GREAT personal fear is that this ban on geoducks may be valid. I also suspect that it probably is...

                      I suspect....

                      Okay. You can all breathe a great sigh of rfelief now because Devil's Advocate is going to retire and go sit in the corner and take some deeeeeeep breaths. Should we all do that together????? '-)

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        I eat so many mercury-laden fish I may get a job as a thermometer.

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          'My GREAT personal fear is that this ban on geoducks may be valid. I also suspect that it probably is...'
                          That- When we first started eating sushi in the early 80s, there was one sushi bar in Tucson, and I spent a lot of time there after my coworker introduced me to it.
                          Giant Clam wasn't a 'market price' item back then. I'm glad that I ordered it a few times, sad that i may have contributed to the shortage.

                          1. re: EWSflash

                            Read my recent post. It seems fine.

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              It is farmed now, in clever ways, because it is SO pricey in Asia. But it is slow growing....

                              1. re: Veggo

                                I'm glad I checked back in. I didn't realize they were being farmed back in mid-December.

                        2. http://www.flickr.com/photos/61246842...

                          This was from a NYE dinner at Peach Farm Seafood in Boston's Chinatown.

                          It's good to share because they sell the whole clam only from the live tanks..3-4 lbs at maybe12-15/lb.

                          They look like the photo posted but the head is in a shell. The tail was sliced thin and served sashimi style, head was sliced, breaded, fried.

                          These come fron PNW.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: 9lives

                            Wow! I would love a chance at that!

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Is it that big a deal? Yeah, it's not cheap but considering the size, doesn't seem too bad.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  Not really, at least no on the west coast.

                                  Even with the China demand (bubble?), if you've got good connections you can source fresh whole geoduck for anywhere between 15-20/pound.

                                  But that said, prices keep climbing and climbing.

                                  A tulip with your clam, perhaps?

                            1. re: 9lives

                              Good stuff. I have that from time to time.

                            2. Are China's standards higher than ours, or do we have lousy inspectors? And having had a toxic shellfish experience, I would gladly eat any GMO product, including meat, before indulging in a PNW product. Even though I have enjoyed it before.

                              Please let me know when it is safe to eat it again.

                              17 Replies
                                1. re: c oliver

                                  geoduck clams. I wonder if the toxin and contamination levels measured by the Chinese are replicated in US FDA labs?

                                  Or do we have different standards?

                                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL


                                    "Local fish companies, though, are struggling to understand the ban because testing by the Washington State Department of Health in the area where the geoduck shipments originated found PSP levels well below internationally accepted limits.

                                    “We’ve gone back and looked at all records — they show results way below any human-health concern,” Donn Moyer, a health-department spokesman, said Saturday. “We don’t have any evidence or information whatsoever about any high levels of PSP in any shellfish.”

                                    Geoduck harvesters believe the Chinese inspectors applied a standard for the level of toxicity that is well below what is considered safe for humans."


                                    Shellfish are regularly tested by state agencies for PSP. The marine biotoxin is not a man made polutant, and come and go, and vary from beach to beach.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        So in your opinion, Paul, what does this mean?

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          I'd readily eat geoduck - if I could afford it. I see them for about $15/lb at the nearby 99Ranch.

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            It would be a pleasure to meet you and bring one to share, but I rarely travel to your location. Happy holidays.

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              Maybe I will have one this weekend. Nah, I will get something else.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Chem, sometimes you are razor sharp, but it's time to sharpen your blade....:)

                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                  :) I bought one a month ago. I think I will preparing something this weekend instead :P

                                                  You should get some geoduck for you cat.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Not much geoduck in Mexico for little veggo, but he likes conch. If you have some extra geoduck, feed your pony!

                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                      Apparently, I have not received my pony from you. Can you send another one?

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        Chem, I'll do better. Next spring when we do the roundup of mustangs on Ocracoke on the North Carolina barrier island, I will arrange for a dozen to be delivered to your pasture! We'll bring enough hay for a couple days.

                                                      2. re: Veggo

                                                        I have a vague memory of one of the travel food shows eating geoduck in Baja (Tony, Andrew or Rick). I think it was locally caught, but I'm not sure about about that.

                                                        Everyone of those shows has to visit a Taylor geoduck farm when they visit Seattle. Taylor (an maybe others) have figured out how to 'farm' these clams, by raising juveniles inside, and then planting them in protective plastic pipes in area mudflats.

                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          Next time we're in Seattle, this is going to be on the to-do list. It seems like some are making this harder to get than they are. Thanks for letting me know that I can visit.

                                                2. re: paulj

                                                  But wouldn't a pound of it feed more than a couple of people?

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    In NYC, they're $19-35/lb....usually $25-30. Most often the small farmed raised ones. The shells are not much bigger than those of big steamers, but the siphon is still substantial. I buy the smallest...(usually 2/3-3/4 lb) I'm the only one who really eats it.

                                        2. With the Chinese and US naval forces playing tag in the S. China Sea, please tell me it's just about "contaminated" geoducks? Chinese riverine and littoral waters are among the most polluted on the planet. Hypocrisy and self-justification are Beijing specialties.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Kagemusha

                                            The photos of Chinese walking with breathing masks in the fetid air of most cities there is not a way to live. Many have no place to hide. These were rural people who moved to cities for a better life.

                                            1. re: Veggo

                                              Starve at home or work in polluted cities, far from family and familiar traditions. While I do not like it, I would hazard that this has been the status quo since we ceased being hunter gatherers.

                                              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                PSP was a hazard that our ancestral hunter gatherer faced.

                                          2. I had originally heard it was due to arsenic, it appears to be a combination of arsenic levels and psp. http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/12...

                                            This doesn't surprise me at all. The US food safety system is a joke. Unless it is going to land people in the hospital or kill them the US govt. monitoring will consider it safe.
                                            Japan still had a ban on US beef until last year.

                                            12 Replies
                                            1. re: blackpointyboots

                                              Apparently the Chinese have not been telling US official very much. The Seattle article that I cited below just talks about the PSP tests. As I mentioned there, shellfish are regularly tested for PSP - by the state heath departments.

                                              1. re: blackpointyboots

                                                I just started to read a few articles online. According to the Chinese officials, it is the arsenic which is the major reason.

                                                1. re: blackpointyboots

                                                  Regarding beef and Japan - countries often impose bans on imported food products. US and Canada have traded meat import bans. One sick cow is enough to trigger a ban. Have you eaten any US beef since 2003 (when Japan imposed that ban)? Have you contracted mad-cow?

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    I made no mention of the validity of the beef ban, just that there had been one.
                                                    That also has nothing to do with my lack of confidence in the US food monitoring system. I have seen PR people from NOAA and FDA blatantly lie the backsides off to the media enough times to not be impressed.

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      Because of "Mad Cow Disease" (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy), American (and presumably Canadian) beef has been banned by a lot of countries through the years and not just China. All of Europe too is my understanding. I'm sure that if the USDA, FDA, and the Sate Department could have figured out how to do it, American/Canadian beef would have been banned in this country too!

                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                        I think you may have this confused. There was ONE US cow that prompted Japan to restrict imports. The bigger problem was in the UK.


                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          The "BIGGER" problem was/is GLOBAL! Do you know what a prion is? That's a question for you. Please answer.

                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                            Best I can remember a prion is either a religious sect or a type of car. :-)

                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                              I haven't heard of any new cases recently that were conclusively proved to be to variant (bovine origin) Creutzfeld Jakob. all I have heard about in recent years of proven cow origin traces back to the original British epidemic....cases acquired then that took a longer time to be expressed. Since cow products were removed from cattle feed, the only cases in cattle have been spontaneous mutations.

                                                              1. re: EricMM

                                                                But given that the disease can take up to 50 years to become symptomatic, I don't think it's possible to conclude that the infectious agent has been eradicated. There were cases of CJD is the northeast last summer. No conclusion has been reached (as far as I know) regarding the origin. See, e.g., http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/20/health/...

                                                                1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                  Keep in mind also that prion diseases are strongly genetic. Unless you already have the prion mutation, ingested prions do not seem to cause misfolding. If you already have the mutation, it's a different story. In the British epidemic, no more than 1 person per family got variant CJD, even though they all ate the same beef. It may well be that if these people lived long enough, they would naturally come down with CJD. Additionally, different breeds of cattle have different degrees of susceptibility to prion diseases...I forget the British varieties, but I have read that Angus cattle are resistant and don't get them.

                                                              2. re: Caroline1

                                                                Generally, a prion is a misfolded protein. Proven capable in some instances of surviving 600F temperatures. Fascinating + scary

                                                      2. Found this in SF on Christmas morning. Just thought I'd share.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          I looked for it NY's eve...it was $35/lb....and too limp to even consider.

                                                          1. re: EricMM

                                                            I got fussed at by an employee for taking a picture so I didn't linger to check them out :)

                                                        2. kinda like the pot calling the kettle black

                                                          1. Several decades ago, there was no geoduck industry in the Northwest. The only time you saw one was when someone happened upon it while digging other clams.

                                                            It doesn't make good economic or culinary sense to take shellfish from one coastline and transport it to another coastline area thousands of miles away.

                                                            IMO, the only reason geoducks are now so popular with folks over on the far side of the ocean is because of their, um, awesome-looking neck which can get up to 3" long. Without that feature, I doubt the clam would have much appeal. There's nothing unusually wonderful about the clam meat itself. It's not, say, abalone.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: Sharuf

                                                              That awesome looking neck happens to be delicious, which is why I eat it when I can...not because it looks cool. Otherwise I'd be throwing out my money. As far as I'm concerned, mirugai is up there with cherrystones, oysters, and Maine shrimp as the best raw seafood. Abalone...not so impressed. I like it better cooked.

                                                              1. re: EricMM

                                                                I wasn't thinking of raw seafood. Oysters are the only shellfish I've seen eaten raw in the NW.

                                                                BTW, with (Pacific) razor clams, the neck is the toughest and therefore least palatable part. It usually gets ground up for chowder or patties.

                                                                1. re: Sharuf

                                                                  OK...now I understand. Geoduck is no great shakes cooked. I just bought one today....price finally dropped, and the neck was firm.

                                                                  1. re: EricMM

                                                                    You have to know how to slice it and cook it. A quick blanch of thinly shaved slices is all it needs, that's how a Hong Kong chef would handle it. Or stirred into hot congee to cook it.

                                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                      I cook the belly and belly meat, only eat the neck raw. The geoduck I had last night was very disappointing. The neck had the perfect texture that I like, but zero flavor. I didn't even use wasabi for most of it. I actually liked the fried belly best. I wonder if it was because farm raised are blander, or perhaps it had been kept in a tank before display. Your method sounds like the way I like conch (actually whelk) in Chinese restaurants....maybe I'll try it next time.