Hard clams are available year-round, with an increased supply during warmer months. These clams have a mild flavor that is sweet and briny. Hard clams are sold fresh live and as shucked meat, frozen shucked meat, frozen on the half-shell, canned, and in value-added products such as sauces and soups. Hard clams have a longer shelf life than soft shell clams. Hard shells should be tightly closed when bought in the shell, and any open live shells should snap shut when tapped or put in cold water. Live clams should not smell bad. Since a “bushel” definition varies among suppliers, buyers recommend getting clams by the piece or by the pound instead. Most hard clams are named according to their size.
Hard clams, also known as littlenecks, Northern quahogs, cherrystones, chowder clams and topnecks, are a fecund species that don’t move much throughout their lives. Since they are concentrated in beds, they are vulnerable to fishing pressure. Hard clams are found along the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico in intertidal waters. Although they are not listed as overfished by international bodies, their abundance in some areas has declined to low levels compared with historical levels. The overall population is considered unknown.
Habitat impacts (Wild)
Hard clams are primarily gathered using tongs and rakes. Hand rakes have less of an impact on the seagrass beds where the clams are harvested than mechanized rakes or small dredges. Overall the gear impact is considered moderate since heavy raking can have a long-lasting effect on aquatic vegetation. Since clams are filter feeders, they can improve water quality where they grow.
Bycatch in the hard clam fisheries is very low because the fishery is highly selective and the gear is designed to lower the likelihood of catching undersized clams.
The hard clam commercial fishery has some management measures depending on the area that include area closures and local data collection. The entire fishery lacks adequate data monitoring, though. While the hard clam fishery’s capacity has declined over time, this has been attributed to lower commercial profitability and declining availability rather than a direct consequence of management action.