This letter is in regard to “Hard times for Hard Clams,”by Ryan W. Cool of the Virginia Marine Resource Commission, that appeared in the June 1998 Bay Journal.
First, let me say that I am not a fisheries management expert, but I did spend my entire life growing up with my uncle, who was a Bayman. He spent the 1920s raking (and later tonging) for chowder clams off Napeague Beach, East Hampton and Long Island, NY.
It was more profitable, in those days, to harvest chowders, which sold for as much as $1.50 a bushel. But during the ’40s and ’50s, the taste for clams changed as the new tourist trade began to consume the smaller little necks and cherrystones.
It was during that time that marine biologists at Woods Hole, MA undertook a thorough study of the life history of Mercenaria mercenaria. They discovered that the age of spawning occurred most significantly during the time the clam was at the cherrystone size. After it had matured to a chowder clam, it had already finished breeding!
Why then, do apparently distinguished and learned technicians in fisheries management not have access to this information? Mr. Cool writes, “Planting the adult clams in such tight, environmentally friendly sanctuaries will help to promote mass spawn-outs in the future and a large dispersal of larvae.”
Such inaccuracies plague taxpayers with futile expenses that (contrary to VMRC studies) do not resolve the demise of the hard clam. Not only that, but such erroneous information frustrates attempts by real environmentalists and watermen to restore the hard clam fishery.
In conclusion, there must be a conscientious effort redirected toward protecting the breeding size cherrystone. The demise of the hard clam industry is directly related to pollution and by the millions of people that now demand their clams on the half-shell!
Lance T. Biechele
Princess Anne, MD