Geoduck clams. (Photo: Stock File)
Geoduck aquaculture on the horizon
Tuesday, August 28, 2012, 00:40 (GMT + 9)
Researchers from the Cawthron Institute and the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) are investigating the aquaculture market potential for geoducks (Panopea zelandica) both domestically and abroad.
King clams are the largest burrowing saltwater clam, measuring an average weight of 1 kg and an average shell size of 20 cm.
“Geoducks are an established delicacy overseas,” said Associate Professor Andrea Alfaro, who heads AUT’s Aquaculture Biotechnology Group.
“Due to a robust demand from Asia and North America for geoduck, the capture fishery cannot satisfy the demand in an ecologically sustainable fashion. On a return-per-acre basis geoducks are the western region’s most valuable cultured shellfish species. Hence the intense interest in geoduck aquaculture and the predictions for continued rapid growth,” she commented, NBR reports.
Alfaro explained that geoduck aquaculture already exists off the Pacific coast of the US and Canada. In NZ, the shellfish is harvested by scuba divers in the Golden Bay.
“Recent trials at Cawthron Institute in Nelson have resulted in successful production of Panopea zelandica seed [juveniles], which will soon be transplanted to wild growing areas,” announced Alfaro. “If New Zealand geoduck can be successfully cultivated to market size, this species will bring an added value to the growing aquaculture industry in this country.”
She believes the high demand for geoduck worldwide and the fact that only a few countries have a geoduck aquaculture industry will help NZ easily break into this international market.
In 2005, about 47.5 per cent of the geoduck market came from British Columbia (BC), another 47.5 per cent came from Washington, US and 5 per cent from Alaska. The geoduck production in BC was around 2,000 tonnes a year during 2006-8 and went for USD 20/kg, generating USD 40 million per year.
Geoducks currently sell for up to NZD 40 (USD 32.43) per kg in NZ, versus NZD 2 (USD 1.62) per kg for green lipped mussels, the country’s largest shellfish industry at NZD 200 million (USD 162.1 million) per year in exports.
“The large meaty geoduck siphon is prized for its savoury flavour and crunchy texture. In Asia especially it’s a real delicacy, each costing up to NZD 300 (USD 243.20), so you can see the potential market value,” added Alfaro.
Relatedly, Kevin Heasman, a scientist at Cawthron Institute, was awarded the Research and Development Award at the Marine Farming Associations (MFA) this month to celebrate his contribution to certain challenges and opportunities relevant to the marine farming industry, including field trials exploring the potential for marine farming in New Zealand of geoduck.
The king clam is considered an aphrodisiac and its texture is likened to a combination of clam and chicken, with the meat tasting like a sweeter version of crab. The neck is often cut or ground and used in chowders or sautéed and also used in sushi, when it is known as mirugai in Japanese.
By Natalia Real