Hong Kong lifts B.C. geoduck ban

VANCOUVER — Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety lifted its ban on geoduck from B.C. on Tuesday, ending a five-month-long wait for exporters here of the specialty clam.

Hong Kong, which accounted for more than 50 per cent of B.C.’s geoduck exports, imposed a sudden ban in mid-December, citing unacceptable levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning, a toxin that can cause severe illness or death. This forced exporters, and the divers and boats attached to their businesses, to significantly slow down and, in some cases, halt activity in what is usually a $50-million-a-year fishery.

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It’s been a “very frustrating process,”said Underwater Harvesters Association president James Austin in an email. “We are in need of restoring our brand and image now in Hong Kong as well as [regaining] market share.

“[We] still need to send three sample loads that Hong Kong will test, but the big hurdle of the ban [being removed] is a major step.”

At the time, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it was unable to detect any health risks associated with B.C. geoduck exports to Hong Kong. On Tuesday, Hong Kong authorities said the ban was lifted after their Canadian counterparts submitted a report and implemented “enhanced surveillance programs and actions.”

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