Geoduck harvest returns to Whidbey Island after long hiatus

NEAR WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. -- The commercial geoduck harvest is returning to Whidbey Island after being closed for several years.

The big, funny-looking shellfish are a multi-million-dollar business for Washington -- nearly the only place you can find geoducks.

Blake Herr makes decent money harvesting the geoducks as start at $11 a pound.

"Today, we probably did around 1,100 pounds," he said. Some of it will likely go off to Japan or Beijing.

The divers along this part of Whidbey Island say they're found them within a few feet of each other, even within a few inches of each other. And the dives are taking just a small fraction of that.

Aboard Peter Adolph's boat, he's hit his 3,000 pound limit for the commercial harvest season on south Whidbey Island, the first one here in years. And state inspectors are right there counting every pound.

Wildilfe agents make these guys follow the rules, and hunt for illegal poachers too.

"That's an incredibly hard job when you're talking about this much water for an incredibly lucrative product," said Sgt. Eric Olsen with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Within hours, the geoducks are headed for Sea-Tac Airport.

"This will be in China tomorrow, five days a week," Adolph said. "Five days a week. It's pretty amazing."

The Whidbey Island harvest ends Friday.

Geoducks can live 40 years or more. The oldest was well over 100 years old -- a long time to be sitting in the mud at the bottom of Puget Sound.