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Ocean Clam School

Species We Sell

Quahog clam (Arctica islandica) – in our Chopped Ocean Clams and Clam Juice

 

Description

Long-living mollusks found in coastal waters in the North Atlantic. Burrow in sandy environments using a ‘foot’ that extends from the shell. Consume algae through filter-feeding. Range from 7 to 11 cm in length at maturity.

How It's Fished & Processed

Fishing

Clams are collected commercially by DREDGING along the sea floor. A dredge is essentially a large cage with bars deliberately spaced to catch larger species while leaving smaller ones. Hydraulic dredges use jets of water to liquefy sand, which allows the dredge to pass through to a certain depth. Next, the dredge is pulled up onto the boat, where clams are sorted by size and stored until the boat returns to shore.

Although the dredging method sounds invasive, our Quahog clams are only fished in regions with sandy ocean floors. Dredge cages only disturb the surface of the sand as much as a winter storm naturally would – meaning that the environment easily recovers. Further, the dredging method produces very little bycatch because of the precision of the cage’s openings.

Processing

Clams are unloaded from fishing boats at the dock and moved to a shucking facility. This facility removes the shells of the clams using a mechanical steaming process. The meat from the clams is packed into insulated tubs and chilled, then shipped to our processing plant in Cape May, New Jersey. The processing plant packs the clams into cans, steam cooks them, seals the cans, attaches the labels, and packs the cans up so that they are ready for shipping to retail stores.

 

Fish Facts

  • Our ocean clams are considered a 'specialty' product and make up a very small percentage of Clover Leaf's sales by volume.
  • Clover Leaf’s Quahog clams come from the U.S. northeastern Atlantic coast, in a fishery spanning from Massachusetts to Virginia.
  • Clams are fairly simple organisms, consisting of two main parts – the shell and the internal viscera (what we eat). A protruding ‘foot’ can emerge from the shell for locomotion and digging.
  • Clams mate by releasing their eggs into the open water. Once the egg is fertilized, it is the size of a grain of sand and will float as plankton in the water column until it grows enough to settle on the sea floor as a juvenile.
  • Clams eat by siphoning water in through a ‘mouth’, filtering out phytoplankton to digest, and then 'spitting out' the unused water.
  • Similarly to trees, clams grow a new ring on their shells every year, allowing humans to count how old they are.
  • The expression ‘happy as a clam’ comes from the clam’s affinity for burrowing in the seafloor and is actually shortened from the full expression, ‘happy as a clam at high tide.’ It would be happy at high tide because it is out of reach of the shovels of people waiting to harvest it by hand.
  • Quahog clams are considered to have one of the top ten longest lifespans of any animal. In 2007, one was found to be 405 years old! It is thought that their average lifespan is around 200 years, but that they could possibly live to be up to 600.