The Block Island Times

The shelves are restocked

GSP reopened for shellfishing
By Stephanie Turaj | Jul 30, 2013
Photo by: Stephanie Turaj Jon Grant spreads softshell clams in Cormorant Cove.

“It’s like seeding grass,” said Shellfish Commission member Jon Grant as he grabbed young softshell clams, commonly called “steamers,” out of a bag and spread them over a plot of freshly-raked soil in Cormorant Cove.

The steamers, about 40,000 in all, will grow to about 3-and-a-half inches long, but they were barely larger than a kidney bean when members of the Shellfish Commission and Harbors Department “re-seeded” the cove on Monday, July 22.

It’s a labor-intensive process. The group staked out four large, rectangular plots of land where they would place the clams, which were about a month old. The inside of the plot was dug up and raked — Harbormaster Steve Land said that this was to make sure there were no predators, like crabs, in the sand. The little clams were sprinkled inside this area, and a net placed over it — the net also to keep predators, including gulls and people, out. Around the rectangle, a trench was dug, which would keep the net down.

The commission received the steamers from a hatchery at the University of Salem. They were about a month old when they arrived, and Shellfish Commissioner Lois Bendokas told me they would be ready to eat in two or three years.

It was the second time recently that the Shellfish Commission and Harbors Department were replenishing Block Island. On Thursday, July 11, they restocked Great Salt Pond with topneck clams — about 30,000 in total.

“That’s a lot of clams!” remarked shellfish warden Nancy Ziomek as she slowly pushed handfuls of clams off Jon Grant’s boat, and into the pond.

This process was straightforward: take a bag (each contained about 190 clams and there were 157 bags), cut it open, spill out its contents and push the clams off the back of the boat. However, in order to spread out the clams evenly, we couldn’t simply dump them into the water, so it was a long process of slowly pushing them off.

The Shellfish Commission received the topneck clams (average-sized clams, Grant told me) for the purpose of what is called “restocking the candy shelves.” The topnecks were received from a company called G&B Shellfish Farm, located in Stratford, Conn.

“This is probably close to double what we normally receive,” said Grant.

It took about 10 days for the clams to “dig in” to the harbor, and during this time, the pond was closed to shellfishing. It re-opened at sunrise on July 21, 2013.

Other Shellfish news

At the Shellfish Commission meeting on Tuesday, July 16, members also talked with an intern, Ryan Rezendes, from the Block Island Maritime Institute (BIMI), who will be performing a research project this summer about the island’s shellfish population. He said they would approach those out shellfishing, and ask information about the catch.

“About three times each week we will measure the shellfish that the recreational diggers come up with,” he said.

Shellfish Commissioner Lois Bendokas noted that the state of Rhode Island is just beginning to perform similar research statewide. “We will be ahead of the curve with this data,” she said.

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