posted: 20 June 2014
by: Marnie MacLean
BRUNSWICK, Maine — Dan Fortin makes his living by digging through the mud of Maquoit Bay in Brunswick. In the past, he’s focused on soft shell clams – the ones that end up as steamers on your plate in the summer.
But last year, an invasion of European green crabs literally swarmed their way into the clam flats, eating everything in their path. That included clams and the eel grass, an important habitat for the marsh.
The eel grass is gone, but so are most of the smaller and medium sized clams. So this season, Dan Fortin switched his crop to quahogs. They are bigger clams, with a harder shell that helps protect them from the crabs.
Quahogs are big business in the mid-Atlantic states. This is not the case in Maine, but their numbers look to be increasing.
The town of Brunswick is funding this first-of-its-kind study at a cost of $25,000 dollars. An airboat takes the team to a net where they recently hand planted hundreds of quahogs. Each one was notched before it went into the mud so they can see growth over time. They will leave them in the mud until next fall, but early signs look good.
Brunswick’s Marine Warden will use the results of the study to help figure out the best way to manage this growing resource.
Dan Fortin says he’s not making as much money with quahogs, but it’s close to his soft shell numbers. And while it’s more work to bring them out of the mud, at least they are there to harvest.