China Bans US West Coast Shell Fish Imports-Thousands of Divers Laid Off
In a move that is having a devastating impact on the Pacific Northwest, China has banned shell-fish imports from the U.S West Coast. This ban will have an enormous impact on several states including Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Northern California. The ban clams, oysters and all other two-shelled bivalves such as geoducks.
The shellfish industry contributes $270 million to the economy in the Northwest. China is the leading buyer of shellfish.
China’s ban came they detected contamination in a shipment of geoduck was found to have a high level of arsenic by its own inspectors. The Seattle Times reports,
Fish inspectors in China notified the U.S. Embassy on Dec. 3 that China was tentatively suspending imports of geoduck and other “double-shell aquatic animals,” such as oysters, because they found high levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP, in a Nov. 21 shipment of geoducks.
The geoduck industry, primarily based in Puget Sound exported $68 million of geoduck in 2012. Almost 90% of those sales were to the Chinese. Geoduck are a traditional food at Chinese New Year, and retail at $100-$150 per pound. Those who farm geoduck will be hardest hit by the Chinese ban. The Suquamish tribe sends all of their production to China. They are particularly hard hit by the ban.
The move comes at a time when shell-fish markets in Asia are being particularly hard hit. Shortages of shrimp, crab, and other shell-fish are being experienced in most of Asia. According to the Sun-Herald,
“A new strain of a common bacterium has been wiping out populations in southeast Asia since 2009, where most of the world’s shrimp is raised on farms, according to a United Nations press release in May. It started in China, then spread to Vietnam and now Thailand, the world’s largest shrimp exporter.Quantities of shrimp from Thailand have dropped 37 percent from last year, according to numbers by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Called Early Mortality Syndrome, the disease can take out an entire pond in a few days, but is not harmful to humans.”
For Louisiana, this has been a market boom. Hopefully shortages in the Asian region will encourage the Chinese and American governments to work out the issues related to the Pacific Northwest. It is likely that Chinese consumers are just as anxious as American fishermen and divers to resolve the matter.