Tulalip Geoduck Harvest
BY IAN TERRY
CLINTON — The sound of labored breathing crackles over the radio aboard the fishing boat Rawdeal on an overcast morning in late May.
Anchored about 100 yards off the eastern coastline of Whidbey Island, within sight of the Clinton ferry landing, the crew on the 26-foot aluminum fishing boat is after geoduck.
The giant clams, which grow wild in the Pacific Northwest, are pound for pound the most-valuable seafood being harvested from Puget Sound today.
“I just can't equalize,” diver Jesus Madrigal, a member of the Tulalip Tribes, tells skipper Dennis Hegnes, the boat's owner.
In SCUBA speak, this means Madrigal's ears aren't adjusting to the change in pressure as he descends. Madrigal is 30 feet below the surface, in murky water that is barely 50 degrees.
He is connected to the boat by an air-supply hose and communication cable. The sharp pain in his ears is typically remedied by a trip back up, but that takes time — something the fishermen don't have.