Request for Proposals For a Study to Document the Distribution of Surfclams in the US Northwest Atlantic

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Proposal Submission Deadline: October 31, 2018

Term of Project: 2 years

The Mid‐Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) seeks a highly-qualified contractor to document the distributions of Spisula solidissima similis and Spisula solidissima solidissima in the nearshore waters of the US Northwest Atlantic. This study should involve an examination of the extent of genetic and reproductive isolation among areas sampled for these species.


The surfclam taxon Spisula solidissima similis, also known as the “southern” surfclam, has a reported distribution that includes shallow nearshore marine habitats south of Cape Hatteras as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. Spisula solidissima solidissima, the commerically harvested Atlantic surfclam, is larger with a longer life span and is found in cooler waters north of Cape Hatteras both nearshore and offshore.

S. s. similis was recently shown to be reproductively isolated and genetically distinct from S. s. solidissima at the level of species (Hare et al., 2005, 2010). While morphological differences were observed, these differences were not sufficient to distinguish these two species in the field (Hare et al., 2010). A commercially harvested population of S. s. similis has been documented North of Cape Hatteras in the Long Island Sound (Hare et al., 2010), and this southern species has also been documented in Massachusetts state waters (Shields, 12 March 2018). Recent analysis on size, growth, and longevity of surfclams by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) has suggested that there are portions of the inshore federal survey strata that have surfclams that are fast growing, with shorter longevity and smaller maximum sizes than other parts of the survey (NEFSC 2017). It is possible that warmer waters and changing conditions are altering the distribution of these species.

Currently, the federal fishery management plan treats all Atlantic surfclams as a single management unit and does not distinguish between S. s. solidissima and S. s. similis. There are potential implications to the stock assessment if multiple species that are genetically or reproductively distinct are assessed as part of a single stock. Multiple species that have different maximum sizes, longevity, and growth may affect how assessment results are interpreted and biological reference points are developed. In addition, there are management implications because the commercial fishery targets larger clams, in part through size restrictive gear. Although managers annually suspend the minimum size limit, if a substantial portion of the stock does not approach the maximum size of S. s. solidissima, recommended gear specifications may need to be revisited. S. s. solidissima has not been a strong candidate stock for rotational management because of its relatively slow growth. S. s. similis may be better suited to rotational management, which presents interesting spatial management options that will depend on the distribution of each species.

This study should improve the information available to the stock assessment and allow fisheries managers to make better informed decisions on surfclam management in the Northeast.

Scope of Work

The contractor will document the distributions of S. s. similis and S. s. solidissima in the nearshore waters of the US Northwest Atlantic. The contractor will also examine the extent of genetic and reproductive isolation among areas sampled for these species.

The contractor will be responsible for the genetic testing of samples, analysis of this information, a discussion of the implications of findings, and presentation of final results to the Council.

The contractor will not be directly responsible for sample collection. Samples will be obtained from inshore regions of the federal surfclam survey (Map 1) and state surveys (< 3 miles). Tentative commitments have already been obtained from several state agencies (i.e., NJ Department of Environmental Protection, NY Department of Environmental Conservation, and MA Division of Marine Fisheries) and federal agencies (i.e., NEFSC) to provide georeferenced samples from their fishery independent surveys.

However, the contractor will be required to specify the exact number of samples needed to address the scope of work, as well methods for sample collection (e.g. size of surfclam needed, processing of tissue, etc.), to allow these agencies to provide samples. The contractor will coordinate with the NEFSC (Dr. Daniel Hennen), and points of contact in the state agencies to obtain the georeferenced samples. The proposal should also include the cost for materials to process, handle, and ship the samples from the agencies to the contractor.

Contractor Qualifications

Applicants should have demonstrated experience with current techniques for genetic testing on marine shellfish, including mitochondrial and DNA sequencing.

How to Apply

Applicants should submit a proposal to Dr. Chris Moore, Executive Director, by email ( by 11:59 pm on October 31, 2018. Proposals should not exceed 20 pages total (excluding curriculum vitae) and should include the following elements:

Executive Summary: A summary of the proposed scope of work as well as brief summary of the applicant’s qualifications.

Proposed Scope of Work: A detailed plan for addressing the scope of work described above. This should include a summary of potential analysis approaches, a project schedule, a brief summary of how the project will be managed, and a list of all personnel who may work on the project.

Qualifications of Applicant: A summary of the qualifications of the applicant and other team members, if applicable. Curriculum vitae should be included for all individuals who will work on the project.

Proposed Budget: A detailed budget, including the basis for the charges (e.g. hourly rates, fixed fees).

References: Names, full addresses, and phone numbers for three clients for whom the applicant has provided similar services to those requested.


  • September 10, 2018: Issuance of Request for Proposals

  • October 31, 2018: Deadline for proposal submission

  • January 7, 2019: Contractor notification

  • January 31, 2019: Contracts finalized

  • March 1, 2019: Project begins

  • March 1, 2020: Submission of final report

Proposal Evaluation Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated based on methodology, prior experience, references, qualifications, and budget. The Council may request additional information as deemed necessary or negotiate modifications to an accepted proposal.

Requests for Further Information

Christopher M. Moore, Ph.D., Executive Director Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council
800 North State Street, Suite 201
Dover, DE 19901
tel: 302-526-5255


  1. All costs associated with the preparation and presentation of the proposal will be borne by applicants.

  2. Proposals and their accompanying documentation will not be returned.

  3. Respondents must disclose any relevant conflicts of interest and/or pending civil/criminal legal actions.

  4. The Council reserves the right to accept or reject any or all applications received, negotiate with all qualified applicants, cancel or modify this request for proposals in part or in its entirety, or change the application guidelines, when it is in its best interests.


Hare, M. and J. R. Weinberg. 2005.  Phylogeography of surfclams, Spisula solidissima, in the western north Atlantic based on mitochondrial and nuclear sequences.  Marine Biology 146: 707-716.

Hare, M., J. R. Weinberg, O. Peterfalvy, M. Davidson. 2010. The “southern” surfclam (Spisula solidisssima similis) found north of its typical range: a commercially harvested population in Long Island Sound New York.  J. Shellf. Res. 29(4):799-807.

Northeast Fisheries Science Center. 2017. 61st Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Workshop (61st SAW) Assessment Report. US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 17-05; 466 p. (doi:10.7289/V5/RD-NEFSC-17-05) Available from: National Marine Fisheries Service, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1026, online at

Shields, Tom. Memo to David Pierce. MA Marine Fisheries Preliminary Southern Surf Clam Investigations, Boston, MA. 12 March 2018.