Voices from the Tidelands: a portrait of geoduck farmers from South Puget Sound
The geoduck is a very large, edible clam found along the west coast of North America. A native species of the region, it is known for its extremely long siphon, which can grow up to three feet in length. It burrows deep in the sand where it remains protected from most predators. The geoduck is one of the oldest living animals in the world and can live as long as 164 years.
There are things in the world that you see, that you can’t believe actually exist. There’s nothing like being on the beach and seeing a geoduck squirt. You’re shaken awake. For those of us who have seen it as kids, there’s that fascination. Having kids now, you want to have those animals out there.
- Adam James, 3rd generation shellfish grower, Hama Hama, WA
A New Generation of Farmers
Until recently, the geoduck were primarily harvested recreationally by locals who enjoyed the sport of a geoduck “hunt,” a process that required hours of laborious digging to unearth the unusual looking creature. Over the past 20 years, shellfish growers have slowly discovered new ways to farm geoduck. Geoduck farming is a highly contentious practice that has fueled contentious debate between shoreline homeowners and environmental activists, who raise concerns about the practices impact on shoreline habitat, and shellfish farmers, who are collaborating to develop sustainable growing techniques.
Voices from the Tidelands provides a glimpse into the practice of geoduck farming in the South Puget Sound from the worker’s perspective. Rather than highlighting the companies for which these farmers work, this project features three young men who are learning the trade. From the perspective of these newcomers, these panels explore how they find daily meaning in their work, and develop a relationship to our natural environment through working - as opposed to recreating or living - on the water.