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Surf Clams

Updated on September 22, 2011

The American surf clam fishery exists from New England down to the Virginia coast. Surf clams are sometimes harvested together with ocean quahogs.

Surf clams are landed whole and transported to facilities where they are shucked, cooked and processed into a variety of food items.

Surf clams are caught off the coasts of New England, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. They are also known as skimmer, hen, sea, giant or bar clams. These open ocean shellfish range from 4 to 8 inches in length.

Surf clams are processed into breaded fried strips, chopped and canned or for their clam juice. The meat is sweet and delicately flavored. Like quahogs, they are often used in chowders and other dishes. In addition to being a popular seafood product, surf clams are also prized as fishing bait.

Offshore surf clams are landed by large boats which tow special dredges across the sea floor. The clam dredges are equipped with pressurized water jets to blast away the sand, exposing the clams which enter the moving dredge. Modern clam boats are often 90' or more and remain at sea for several days.

The Mid-Atlantic surf clam fishery operates under and Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) system. Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) programs are a type of limited access privilege program (LAPP), which provide individual fishermen or corporations the exclusive privilege to harvest a certain percentage of the total allowable catch (TAC) of a fishery. IFQ programs allow individual licenses or "shares" to be bought and sold in the marketplace.

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