The Threat: Geoduck Aquaculture

Geoduck aquaculture presents new threats to our coastal marine ecosystem. All forms of marine life within the food web are endangered by the introduction of more nets, plastics and toxins.

There is a lucrative market in Asia for live geoduck clams, which are viewed as having aphrodisiac qualities. Currently, in Canada, the wild geoduck fishery supplies this market, which is worth approximately 55 million dollars per year.

Intertidal geoduck aquaculture in Puget Sound
photo credit: Protect Our Shoreline. Used with permission

Intertidal geoduck aquaculture damages sensitive near shore habitat

Damaging this habitat threatens long term survival of salmon, eagles, great blue herons, and many marine species which live in this highly populated zone.

A study on the harms of geoduck aquaculture in Puget Sound has been summarized in this article:

Aquaculture equipment threatens Puget Sound

The photo shows an intertidal geoduck installation in Puget Sound: harvesting geoduck using a stinger – a high pressure water jet that stirs up the substrate

photo creditProtect Our Shoreline. Used with permission.

PVC tubes break down, releasing toxins and microplastic particles

The PVC toxins and microplastic particles permanently contaminate waters where shellfish are grown for food, and where herring and salmon are spawned and reared.

PVC tubes are installed at a density of about 100,000 per hectare for geoduck aquaculture.

Geoduck aquaculture is done in sensitive subtidal zones, as well as in intertidal zones

In subtidal geoduck aquaculture, large scale industrial activities are introduced to habitats at depths of 10 metres and more, without environmental impact assessment, or ecosystem-based scientific evaluation.

Pacific sand lance, a forage fish which is an important source of food for salmon, sea birds and humpback whales, rely on some of this habitat to protect themselves from predators by burrowing into the sand.

Plastic debris is the result of plastic-intensive aquaculture methods

Like other forms of shellfish aquaculture, geoduck aquaculture is plastic intensive. Throughout the aquaculture industry, plastic gear and equipment is not contained or collected.

Introducing geoduck aquaculture increases the volume of debris and intensifies the accumulation of microplastic particles and fibres in the environment.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not enforce its regulations regarding escaped equipment and gear, and the industry lacks a program for consistently monitoring and collecting their plastic equipment.

Learn about Denman Island's annual fall beach cleanup

Netting compounds the problem

Hundreds of hectares of netting would be installed for both intertidal and subtidal geoduck aquaculture.

Netting can entrap spawning herring as well as the birds and marine mammals which hunt them. Even now, derelict netting from fishing and aquaculture entraps many marine animals. Installing more nets would make the problem worse.

The netting breaks down into microplastic particles. As it degrades it leaches toxins, including phthalates - endocrine disruptors – into surrounding waters and contaminates the food web.

We advocate for protection of Baynes Sound, Lambert Channel and surrounding waters.

Together, these waters are identified as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area. We pursue positive actions that show respect for and commitment to our marine ecosystem as a whole. We recognize that all life, including our own, depends on our oceans flourishing.

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