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Washington State Delegation Urges Swift Action to Resume Geoduck Exports to China

17 West Coast members of Congress sign bipartisan letter to NOAA

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Washington, May 28, 2014 | comments
Today, 17 members of Congress from West Coast states, including the entire Washington state delegation, urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to quickly implement new procedures that would allow shellfish exports to resume to the People’s Republic of China.
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Today, 17 members of Congress from West Coast states, including the entire Washington state delegation, urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to quickly implement new procedures that would allow shellfish exports to resume to the People’s Republic of China.

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03), led a bipartisan letter to NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan urging the agency to swiftly finalize new protocols for monitoring, sampling and certifying exports as requested by the Chinese government.

Also signing the letter from Washington state’s delegation were Senator Patty Murray (D-WA),  Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA-07), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01), Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-08), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA-02), Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA-04), Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA-10), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05),  and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA-09).  Those signing also included Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA-05).

China notified the U.S. Trade Representative’s office last week that it had lifted its ban on imports of Pacific Coast shellfish, which included Washington state geoducks. The ban took effect Dec. 3, 2013. For trade to resume, NOAA first must finalize monitoring, sampling and certification protocols. The letter also requested that NOAA continue to work with the states, tribes, industry and other stakeholders in a transparent manner.

“Due to the trade ban, many shellfish businesses have faced a disruption in their sales and experienced significant uncertainty about their ability to serve a major export market,” the letter said. “We urge NOAA to expeditiously work to finalize protocols so trade can resume, supporting shellfish jobs on the West Coast.”

Geoducks are hugely popular in China, where about 90 percent of Puget Sound geoducks are exported. But Chinese officials banned imports after two shipments of geoducks were flagged for potential toxins. U.S. officials disputed the accuracy of the results and found that the shellfish were safe to eat.  U.S. officials worked with states, stakeholders, tribes, academics and Chinese officials to conduct additional monitoring and develop specific testing protocols for geoducks that will be exported to China. 

Members of the delegation sent a letter on Dec. 20 to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, NOAA and the U.S. Trade Representative requesting immediate action to resolve the geoduck ban. Federal officials worked with state agencies and shellfish growers to develop a plan to monitor shellfish for certain toxins before they are exported.

The ban included geoducks and other bivalve seafood products, including oysters, clams and mussels from Washington, Oregon, Northern California and Alaska.

Washington state’s $270 million shellfish industry supports more than 3,000 jobs in the state’s coastal communities. Shellfish farming is the largest employer in Pacific County and is the second largest employer in Mason County. 

Below is the text from today’s letter:

Dear Administrator Sullivan:

We were pleased to learn that the People's Republic of China has lifted the ban on importing shellfish from the West Coast of the United States.   To resume trade, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) must finalize monitoring, sampling and certification protocols as requested by the People's Republic of China.  We urge NOAA to finalize these monitoring protocols swiftly in a collaborative manner with tribes, industry and other stakeholders to allow exports to resume immediately. Furthermore, we ask NOAA provide greater clarification about whether China’s agreement will extend to all shellfish products.

On December 3, 2013, The People's Republic of China banned all imports of shellfish from the U.S. including geoduck clams.  The shellfish industry supports thousands of jobs and generates more than $270 million annually in Washington state alone.  The geoduck industry is of particular concern because prior to the ban, 90 percent of Puget Sound geoduck was exported to the People's Republic of China.

Public health and consumer safety are of primary concern for both governments.  We believe it is equally important that the health and safety standards and testing procedures be scientifically sound and transparent.  NOAA, the United States Trade Representative, the United States Department of Agriculture, states, tribes and industry have worked together to demonstrate that U.S. shellfish exports meet the food safety requirements for the People's Republic of China.

Due to the trade ban, many shellfish businesses have faced a disruption in their sales and experienced significant uncertainty about their ability to serve a major export market.  We urge NOAA to expeditiously work to finalize protocols so trade can resume, supporting shellfish jobs on the West Coast.  We appreciate your diligence in this important matter.

Sincerely,

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