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Begich Urges China to Renew it Imports of Alaska Shellfish

Tells Ambassador that Alaska Maintains Highest Safety Standards

U.S. Senator Mark Begich is going to bat for Alaska’s lucrative shellfish industry by asking a top Chinese official to intervene in the face of apparently flawed Chinese testing of the product. In a letter today to Chinese Ambassador to the United States Tiankai Cui, Begich asked for help lifting China’s recent ban on geoduck clams, a prized Chinese delicacy that flourishes in the waters of Southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

“As Alaska’s number one trading partner, I appreciate your personal interest in our state and the People’s Republic of China’s interest in the many resources Alaska has to offer,” said Sen. Begich.  “I serve as chair of the Senate Interparliamentary Council on China and chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, so am keenly interested in Alaska-China trade issues—especially those involving Alaska seafood.”

On December 5, the State of Alaska was notified China would ban imports of Geoduck clams and other similar shellfish due to reports that samples of product from Southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest tested higher than acceptable limits for PST and inorganic arsenic.  This was contrary to testing by the states of Alaska and Washington, which found that the product was well within acceptable limits and did not pose any threat to the public health. In his letter, Sen. Begich pointed out that the State of Alaska closely manages the geoduck clams fishery for sustainability, quality and safety and noted the State’s vigilant monitoring for Paralytic Shellfish Toxin (PST).

“Alaska prides itself as a provider of high quality, sustainable and safe seafood,” said Sen. Begich.  “It is a responsibility Alaska takes very seriously.  We are most concerned about China’s findings and are committed to ensuring that all shellfish from Alaska are safe to eat.”

In the letter, Sen. Begich urged the Chinese embassy to address the matter immediately and to work to resolve the conflicting test results so that the commercial shellfish trade could resume as soon as possible.   He also encouraged seafood inspectors with the State, Food and Drug Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to cooperate with inspectors from the PRC to ensure they have all the information necessary to lift the ban. 

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