In 2018, we undertook a venture to harvest Rhode Island’s hard shell clam, the quahog. Quahogs, Mercenaria mercenaria, are a fishery with deep traditions in the Ocean State. Mercenaria is Latin for ‘commerce’ – a most fitting name for this shellfish species given the commerce it indeed drives.
The species is highly abundant thanks to a well regulated state management program and fisherman with a genuine care for the resource. Quahogs are typically harvested in shallow (<20 fsw) water though can be found in up to 80 fsw. Harvesting methods include bull-raking, and by diving. Harvest divers will fan the bottom to look for the shellfish in the bottom, and literally pick them one at a time with daily yields between 1000 and 2000 pieces.
Our ongoing harvesting efforts have allowed us to develop and test new diving equipment, including our oxygen rebreather, RD1 (Rebreather Day 1). The RD1 project has proven that rebreather technology can be used for day to day routine commercial and husbandry type tasks, including shellfish harvesting. In time, we will evaluate the feasibility of farm raising quahogs in deeper water areas of Narragansett Bay, away from vessel and waterfront traffic. This will require many diving techniques that are similar to those we have developed for mesophotic exploration.