Surfclams and Ocean Quahogs
The Mid-Atlantic surf clam and ocean quahog fisheries exist from New England down to the Virginia coast. The two fisheries are managed under a single fishery management plan (FMP) developed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
With the exception of the Maine mahogany quahog fishery, the fishery has operated under an individual transferable quota (ITQ) management system since 1990. The principal gear used in the fishery is the hydraulic clam dredge, which uses jets of water to dislodge ocean quahogs and surfclams from sediments. Based on the most recent stock assessments, Atlantic surfclams and ocean quahogs are not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring.
Atlantic surfclams (Spisula solidissima) are distributed along the western North Atlantic Ocean from the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to Cape Hatteras. Surfclams occur in both the state territorial waters (≤ 3 mi from shore) and within the EEZ (3-200 miles from shore). Commercial concentrations are found primarily off New Jersey, the Delmarva Peninsula, and on Georges Bank. The maximum size of surfclams is about 22.5 cm (8.9 inches) shell length, but surfclams larger than 20 cm (7.9 inches) are rare. The maximum age exceeds 30 years, and surfclams of 15-20 years of age are common in many areas. Atlantic surfclams are suspension feeders on phytoplankton, and use siphons which are extended above the surface of the substrate to pump in water. Predators of surfclams include certain species of crabs, sea stars, snails, and other crustaceans, as well as fish predators such cod and haddock.
Ocean quahogs (Arctica islandica) are distributed in temperate and boreal waters on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean. In the Northeast Atlantic, quahogs occur from Newfoundland to Cape Hatteras from depths of about 8 to 400 meters. Ocean quahogs further north occur closer to shore. The US stock resource is almost entirely within the EEZ, outside of state waters, and at depths between 20 and 80 meters. Ocean quahogs burrow in a variety of substrates and are often associated with fine sand. Ocean quahogs are one of the longest-living, slowest growing marine bivalves in the world. Under normal circumstances, they live to more than 100 years old. Ocean quahogs have been aged in excess of 200 years.