03/12/2015 02:52 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 05:59 EDT

Geoduck harvesters raise concerns about Hong Kong ban

Geoduck harvesters in B.C. want more help from the federal government to lift Hong Kong's import ban on the prized giant clam.

The burrowing clams, which are also known as horse clams or elephant trunk clams, are the largest saltwater clams in the world and can reach two metres in length.

Normally, 95 per cent of the 1.4 million kilogram harvest, worth about $45-million, is shipped to China and Hong Kong where geoducks are considered a delicacy.

But in December 2014, Hong Kong, which handles much of the product heading for China, banned the import of B.C. geoducks after paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP toxin, was found in live clams from the B.C. Central Coast.

James Austin, with the Underwater Harvesters' Association says the affected area was closed right away, but it didn't matter.

"All product from the province of B.C. is banned from importing into Hong Kong right now," said Austin.

As a result, the industry harvested 180,000 kilograms less in January and February 2015 compared to last year.

Austin says while they've been working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, he wants the federal government to do more to convince Hong Kong the local clam is safe and to re-open its market.

"If we don't get Hong Kong back into our circulation ... we will be in trouble," says Austin. 

The CFIA says it has given Hong Kong officials a report which shows what it's done to protect consumers and it will keep giving them information in order to get B.C. geoduck moving again.

There's no official estimate when that might happen.