US East Coast surf clam fishery deemed "robust"

Atlantic surf clams have been found to be abundant and not at risk of being overfished, according to a new study from the U.S. Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCEMFIS)

SCEMFIS is a collaboration of academic and professional researchers convened through university partners including the University of Southern Mississippi, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and the College of William and Mary.

Its latest study, published in the Journal of Shellfish Research, found the U.S. Atlantic surf clam population is s “robust to overfishing across a variety of management strategies.”

Conservative quota caps the industry has adopted “have likely contributed to the sustainability of the Atlantic surf clam stock,” SCEMFIS said.

The quota for the fishery, overseen by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) has been imposed in collaboration with participants in the region's surf clam fishery to ensure how harvest levels do not impact the health of the surf clam population.

Using stock assessment models from the MCFMC, researchers ran simulations to determine how harvest levels impact the population density of surf clams, a key factor in maintaining their viability. They found “the surf clam stock is unlikely to become overfished or experience overfishing from currently implemented management strategies,” SCEMFIS said.

The study raised concerns about the impact climate change will have on the surf clam population on the U.S. East Coast, in particular warming to the northwestern Atlantic, as surf clams are highly sensitive to rising temperatures. But they said fishing pressure is unlikely to be a cause of population decline for the species in the near- to medium-term.

Photo courtesy of David R Butler/Shutterstock


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