Craig Welch, Seattle Times environmental reporter and author of Shell Games: Rogues, Smugglers, and The Hunt for Nature’s Bounty, talks about wildlife trafficking in Puget Sound and the massive illegal trade in geoducks (pronounced “gooey-duck”) clams. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how geoducks are more than fashionable seafood by providing an entrée into the dark underworld of illegal wildlife trade. Geoducks are a species of large saltwater clams native to the northern Pacific coasts of Washington State and the province of British Columbia.They’re the largest burrowing clam in the world, weighing on average 1 to 3 pounds, and also one of the world’s longest living organisms, with a life expectancy well over 100 years. Harvesting them is difficult, as these clams bury themselves deep into the muddy ocean bottoms and tidal flats, with only the small tips of their siphons evidence of their presence. To show just how difficult it can be, the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs television show even went to a geoduck farm in 2006. Geoducks are prized for their meat, and are considered a delicacy in China and elsewhere. They’ve been featured on a variety of cooking shows, including Top Chef, Dinner Impossible, and Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin.
A journalist for two decades, Craig Welch’s work has appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, the Washington Post, and Newsweek, as well as the Seattle Times. He has won dozens of local, regional and national journalism awards, and has been named the national Society of Environmental Journalists’s Outstanding Beat Reporter of the Year. In 2007, he completed a fellowship at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Craig has hunted seals with tribal fishermen in Alaska, hitched helicopter rides with scientists in the melting Arctic, prowled the Oregon woods for endangered owls, and tracked the development of Wyoming’s oil fields. In researching his book Shell Games, Welch got an insider’s look at a group of dedicated state and federal wildlife agents who have devoted years to cracking down on the lucrative trade in geoducks in the Pacific Northwest. This episode of “The WildLife” originally aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on August 30, 2010 and was repeated on July 18, 2011.