Skokomish Indian Tribe, Washington

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Tribal members illegally dumped nearly 70,000 pounds of geoducks during the tribe's 1999 harvest, state fisheries officials say. At issue was a practice known as "high-grading,'' in which lesser-quality clams are discarded to prevent their being counted against a tribe's quota. While disputing the size of the discard claimed by the state, the Skokomish admit a problem during last year's harvest of the 219-acre Warrenville tract in Hood Canal near Big Beef Creek. "We've already developed a new monitoring and compliance program which will be in effect during the coming season,'' said Dave Herrera, fisheries manager for the Skokomish. Five area tribes, including the Skokomish, were allowed to take up to 541,250 pounds of the huge clams from the canal last year. The clams, the largest burrowing clam in the world, can weigh as much as 10 pounds. Prime geoducks, generally in the 2- to 3-pound size range, bring as much as $13 a pound on the Asian market, where they are currently bringing $8 to $9 a pound. The total value of the annual tribal harvest is estimated at more than $2 million. Members of the Lower Elwah S'Klallam, Jamestown S'Klallam, Port Gamble S'klallam, Skokomish and Suquamish tribes met March 24 over the state report on the dumped clams.