Giving clams an edge

Millions of juvenile clams are dying each year before they are large enough to be harvested by commercial diggers.

A marine science professor from Peaks Island believes he may have found a way to dramatically increase their likelihood of survival, and in the process, potentially increase the number of clams that can be harvested commercially here in Maine and around the world.

Mark Green, a marine science professor at Saint Joseph`s College in Standish, has demonstrated in field experiments that spreading crushed clamshells over marine sediment provides a buffer against acidic soil conditions, which he believes have been dissolving the shells of young clams.

Industry officials and clammers have long believed that it was predators, not acidic sediment levels, that were killing off massive amounts of baby clams. But Green`s research indicates that is likely not the case.

“Anything that can stop the (die-off) process could give clams an edge,“ said Don Card, a state marine biologist based in Bath who is familiar with Green`s research. “It has great potential.“

Last year, Green, who teaches at Saint Joseph`s College, received a $419,000 National Science Foundation grant to study why so many juvenile softshell and hardshell clams die before reaching maturity.

In laboratory experiments, Green had seen that clams dissolve in acidic mud. But Green and his assistant, Shannon Reilly, needed to test their theories in the field. Green chose West Bath.


D. Hoey, Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, 16 September 2007. Article.

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