Growers use a variety of techniques to raise oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and geoduck.
Growers farm shellfish on their own privately-owned tidelands or lease tidelands from homeowners or their state’s land authority. Most baby shellfish (seed) are planted at the intertidal level, the area of the beach that is alternately exposed and submerged by the tides. Methods include broadcast directly onto the beach where they burrow deep into the sand, or strung onto mother shell on lines suspended two or three feet off the beach (longlines). Mussels and some oyster culture takes place at the subtidal (always submerged) level off rafts or other floating structures.
The baby shellfish reach maturity between 1 to 6 years, depending on the species and growing area. For geoduck, the PVC tubes and netting typically used that protect the newly planted babies from predators are removed after a year or two. The babies continue to grow, burrowing deeper in the sand for another three to five years. Then, depending on the species, shellfish are harvested by hand or mechanical means.
Clams are usually harvested by individual diggers using small rakes, and only mature clams are harvested, with smaller clams left in the beach to grow. Geoduck are harvested by using a high volume of water at low pressure to release the adult clams from the sand.
Harvested clams are placed in containers and tagged with the name of the harvesting company, the growing location, and the date of harvest. They are then transported to a processing facility where they are processed, bagged or boxed and placed under temperature control prior to and during shipping. Strict protocol governs the entire handling process to ensure that consumers receive the highest quality, freshest shellfish possible.