The rest of the geoduck farming story

My turn

Posted: Thursday, February 22, 2001

I am a geoduck diver in Southeast Alaska and would like to respond to Mr. Pihlman's letter (Empire, Feb. 21) regarding the Southeast Regional Dive Fisheries Associations {SARDFA} letter (Empire, Feb. 13) regarding the geoduck aquaculture permit applications.

Mr. Pihlman's letter has some "Clintonesque" statements in it that I'd like to respond to. "Clintonesque" in my opinion, means putting make-up on a half or mistruth, and hoping people don't call you on it. Well, people became well-aware of Clinton's tactics and it's time for you to be aware of the real truths regarding the whole geoduck aquaculture fiasco.

The reason that people have become so venomous regarding the geoduck resource in Southeast is because the clams have become one of the most highly sought after seafood products in the world! The prices in Washington normally range from $7-10 per pound for these mollusks, and the outlook remains good. So people are trying to gain access to these animals at any cost.

I would like to start out by saying that I haven't heard a single harvest diver say that they're against aquaculture for geoducks. What they do have a great problem with is aquaculture permittees gaining access to large amounts of wild geoducks on their sites.

A couple examples of what some permittees said on their applications to the state are: "No naturally occurring geoducks here..." The state, with their own survey, found this applicant to have roughly 325,000 pounds of clams on his proposed site.

Another applicant claimed, after 20 survey dives, to have seen marginal geoduck distribution of wild clam on his sites... The Fish and Game survey results: 615,000 pounds of clams! Does everybody see our point now? I'll do the math for you. At $4.50 live price, which I received for my live clams this year, the first site equals $1.46 million, the second $2.77 million.

This isn't the idea that any of us commercial fisherman had to what "farming" was all about! We believe that you plant a seed, keep the predators out, then harvest your product. What is happening is the Aquatic Farm Act is being loopholed to death so some people can capitalize off our state's resources.

And by the way, SARDFA has been the best thing to happen to the dive fisheries in Southeast since the drysuit! We have developed a working relationship with the Legislature, Fish and Game, and our local municipalities that is second to none. Our executive director, Julie Decker, has gone beyond what any fisheries executive director I have been associated with. As far as ethics and integrity goes, she's won the respect of a lot of people in Southeast Alaska.

Mr. Pihlmans' letter is in poor taste and really doesn't deserve any reply. I'm just letting you people of Juneau hear my version of the truth. All my statements can be verified by the state of Alaska.

Clay Bezenek is a commercial salmon fisherman and harvest diver who lives in Ketchikan.

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