Shell Games

Shell Games book coverDetectives on the beach are looking through a spyglass at a boat running without lights through the 3 a.m. darkness. The boat cuts its engines. The detectives are collecting evidence about the poaching of creatures that are as phallic looking as they are lucrative: geoducks.

Shell Games is written by Craig Welch, a journalist who followed these detectives on their mission. In addition to documenting a good "whodunit" story, Welch outlines the staggering scope of poaching. The book touches on some of the many forms of poaching all over the globe, including butterflies, bears, and sharks. But it is the geoducks, poached in vast quantities from Puget Sound and fetching near $100 each in Asian markets, that are the stars of this strange saga. Published in 2010, this book chronicles investigations into the poaching over a decade beginning in the mid 1990's.

“A compelling tale that is at once ridiculous and tragic ... an engrossing tale of both human excesses and the attempts of a few brave souls to curb them. Everyone ... has a stake in this battle's outcome.”

—The Washington Post


“Geoduck poaching is particularly damaging because the species grows slowly over a long period,” noted state Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson as reported in a May 2012 article in the Olympian. What is the current state of poaching? According to that article, "In the past year, state biologists monitoring geoduck tracts estimated some 800,000 pounds of geoducks are missing, predominately in the South Sound area. That’s the equivalent of about one-third of the annual allowable harvest of Puget Sound geoducks."

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