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Committing crimes with clams

December 17th, 2003 · No Comments

Now I’m a native, born and raised in the Seattle area, and I’ve heard these type of stories before, read ’em in the paper, but it still surprises me to read what people will do for a geoduck…

Excerpts below from the article in yesterdays’ Seattle Times Geoduck smuggler gets 14-year term

The king of Washington poachers, a smooth-talking fisherman who led a smuggling ring that stole at least $1.2 million in geoducks from Puget Sound, was sentenced yesterday to 14 years in prison.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge John McCarthy levied the stiffest penalty in state history against Doug Tobin, saying his criminal operation, which in two years made off with nearly 200,000 pounds of the state’s signature long-necked clam, demonstrated “a great deal of sophistication” and greed…

While the Sound holds some 300 million geoducks, a state biologist told the court that geoduck populations in a few South Sound areas may have been damaged by Tobin’s heavy poaching.

Washington’s $40 million-a-year geoduck industry supplies clams to restaurants and groceries in the United States and Asia, primarily for use in sushi or chowder….

The detectives spent hundreds of hours tailing Tobin. They watched from shore as his crew, using radar and night-vision goggles, went out poaching in South Puget Sound in total darkness. They strung Tobin along as they learned their informant was poaching geoducks, then using the clams in undercover stings and asking the state to reimburse him.

Sure, I like seafood. I’ll eat clams. But they’re not my favorite. I mostly have them in chowder, yeah, that classic Seattle Ivar’s style. My husband’s the one who loves bivalves. Clams taste tough and stringy to me. And they’re ugly too. Who am I, I guess, to criticize creation, but I don’t think clams are the prettiest of the sea. Especially the native geoducks, with their long necks spilling out of the shell, reminding me of someone who tried to put on a too-small suit. They seem both arrogant and underdressed.

To think that geoducks are like gold. These clams are a commodity, generating forty million dollars a year for Washington state. Even traded for drugs – how many molluscs for some marijuana?! Makes ya wonder….

And to read how they captured this poacher. Being a “fish cop” doesn’t sound like much fun, although it has some appeal to me; I imagine the job would require at least a bit of biology, studying the geoducks enough to know how to find them, and how to capture those who capture them. Radar and night-vision goggles – sounds like 007 or something from a spy movie, but right out here in the Sound, smugglers working in clams, caught by fish cops. Only in Seattle…

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