Razor Clams are Cutting Edge Research at UMaine and Roger Williams University

ORONO, Maine  – Clams of all kind are big business in New England, but the razor or jackknife clam, while worth between $2.50 and $6 per pound, has not been a focus of clam diggers. The elongated, elusive bivalve is hard to dig from the mud and usually only accessible at extremely low tides, resulting in an inconsistent supply. Market demand would likely increase if a steady supply of quality razor clams could be developed.

Paul Rawson of the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences is leading an effort to develop ways to grow razor clams on shellfish farms. With a $93,616 award from the Northeast Regional Aquaculture Center (NRAC), Rawson will work with Dale Leavitt of Roger Williams University, Diane Murphy of Woods Hole Sea Grant and Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, and Dana Morse of Maine Sea Grant and UMaine Cooperative Extension. The project is entitled: “Optimization of Hatchery and Culture Technology for Razor Clams.”

In previous work, Leavitt evaluated the equipment and techniques needed to culture razor clams. While the approaches showed promise, Leavitt reached a bottleneck in the hatchery.

“We had very promising results with the grow out stage of razor clam production in our earlier NRAC-sponsored research but had trouble supplying seed to the growers. So, with this grant, we hope to solve the early production stage problems that limited us the last time around,” he said.

Earlier trials and data from other countries indicate razor clams can have fast growth rates, making their culture potential even greater. The team hopes to produce 1 million juvenile razor clams in 2012, working at the UMaine Darling Marine Center (DMC), the Roger Williams University Blount Shellfish Hatchery, and the Aquacultural Research Corporation, in Dennis, Mass.

“The razor clam project is very exciting and I am glad that we’ve been asked to help work through several bottlenecks that presently exist in the culture of razor clams,” said DMC Hatchery Manager Michael Devin. “We will be challenged, but I’m looking forward to helping growers and the shellfish industry in general.”

“The shellfish culture industry in the northeast has a reputation for ingenuity and resourcefulness and we are excited to be helping them explore and solve issues related to the culture of alternative species,” Rawson added.

For project information and updates, visit: http://www.seagrant.umaine.edu/resources-for-shellfish-growers/species/razor-clam, or call Maine Sea Grant, at (207) 841-1435.

Contact: Catherine Schmitt, Maine Sea Grant, catherine.schmitt@umit.maine.edu