Freddy Gutmann, a fishermen on board the ‘Hideaway II’, sorting freshly harvested geoducks near Tofino, in British Columbia, Canada, on Jan 24, 2014. – AFP
Geoducks are massive, bizarre, delicious deep-sea clams that are worth thousands to Canadian fishermen and Asian diners. Catching them, however, is not for amateurs.
From a basket hoisted on the back of his trawler, fisherman Freddy Gutmann proudly picks up a giant geoduck clam fresh from the frigid waters off the north-western Canadian coast. “This one is a great specimen,” Gutmann says as sea water gushes from the massive mollusk that measures an impressive 20cm. Gutmann has good reason to be in high spirits since within 24 hours, the super-sized shellfish – shunned by Western chefs – will be served at top restaurants in Hong Kong, Beijing or Tokyo for a steep price.
Without missing a beat, the 35-year veteran of the Pacific waters off north-west Canada swiftly fills three orange cases with his sorted and cleaned catch so they can be rushed to the airport in Vancouver – and on to Asia. While a kilo of geoducks goes for some Can$30 (RM89) these days – six times less than what top Asian eateries will ask their patrons to fork over – that wasn’t always the case, recalls Gutmann.
“Fifteen years ago, its price was around 30 cents per pound (45 sen per kilo), maximum,” he says. What’s more, licences to harvest such clams were once available for a pittance. “License owners got them for a couple bucks. Sometimes they were given by the government,” says the native of Tofino, a small seaside town in the province of British Columbia popular with surfers and aging hippies. Today, however, “they’re worth Can$4mil to Can $5mil (RM12mil to RM15mil),” he adds.