Washington State Fish & Wildlife officials were working in overdrive this week trying to track down geoducks — large, long-necked clams —  that may have been improperly or unsafely harvested, King5 News reported Thursday.

geoduck.jpg“We are up to our necks in paperwork,” Washington State Fish & Wildlife Officer Tylar Stephenson told King5. Washington state officials teamed up with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to comb through SeaTac airport searching for improperly or illegally filled out paperwork for transporting geoduck, a delicacy and prized export of the Pacific Northwest region that has become a prime target for poaching.

Officials told King5 that without proper paperwork it’s impossible to know whether the mollusks were harvested legally or in a safe manner — the geoducks could have come from unsafe waters or near a sewage plant and “could be a serious health risk.” If illnesses were linked to the geoducks they would likely not be traceable without the right paperwork. 

According to the Kitsap Sun, a Washington newspaper, commercial geoduck farms in the state make up little less than a third of an average Puget Sound geoduck harvest. Commercial production is about  1.5 million pounds annually. About 4 million pounds of wild geoducks are harvested annually by certain native tribes, commercial divers and local families.