The Great American Surfclam

The surfclam fishery was one of the first to be managed under a fishery management plan, which was developed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and approved by NOAA Fisheries in 1977 as directed by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. It's also the first U.S. fishery to be managed under an Individual Transferable Quota system, a management program that allocates shares of the annual harvest to individual fishermen or vessels. The drawback of this type of program is that it can lead to consolidation (fewer boats in the fishery), which has occurred with surfclams. However, the advantage is that it provides fishermen with greater flexibility. Each fisherman has a fixed share of the annual harvest, which he/she can sell or lease to another fisherman. When fishermen have a fixed share of the annual harvest, they are able to fish when it is best for them, taking into consideration the market, weather conditions, and other factors. This slows the pace of the fishery, making harvesting surfclams safer, more efficient, profitable, and environmentally friendly—a win-win for the fishermen and the surfclam resource. 


The current picture for surfclams overall is pretty good. The most recent stock assessment (2013) for surfclams found that the stock is abundant and estimated to be 9 percent above its target population level. But, growth rates for young surfclams have been below average for some time, which could affect future stock health.