South Coast Today

Op-Ed: Our surf clam fishery is headed for disaster

When it comes to fishery management controversy never seems to be too far away. Last month you may have read about the dubious nature of a decision by the New England Fishery Management Council to close a large area of there, ostensibly to protect fish habitat.

Questionable actions such as these undermine industry confidence in fishery regulators and serve only to alienate, and embitter, fishermen and the many others on the waterfront whose livelihoods are threatened by such draconian measures. With respect to protecting fish habitat allow me to quote from NOAA Fisheries’ own web site ( which bills itself as ‘U.S. Seafood Facts.’

The salient quote, with respect to the Atlantic surfclam, spissula solidissima, is this: “Fishing gear used to harvest surfclams has minimal impacts on habitat.” In spite of this fact these traditional grounds have now been designated as essential fish habitat and clamming is banned there indefinitely. NOAA also tells us that surfclams support a valuable fishery. Well, come April 9 it will not be nearly as valuable for those who participate in the harvest and that includes fishermen and shore workers in New Bedford, Gloucester and Bristol, Rhode Island where Galilean Seafood employs around 120 people in this fishery.

“There were five areas out there where we harvested our clams and the two areas with the most historical tows are the ones they closed,” Alan Rencurrel told me. Alan knows surf calms. He owns Nantucket Sound Seafood in New Bedford where the clams he catches are hand shucked. “If you steam ’em open they get chewy,” he said. He’s been fishing on the Shoals since 1992. “And there were boats out there before me.”

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