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Commercial Shellfishing – Species of Shellfish

Soft Shell Clam


The soft shell clam, Mya arenaria, is a bivalve mollusk (hinged, 2 shell clam), with a relatively thin shell. They are also called steamers, softshells, and longnecks. They are what the general public considers as simply clams.

The shells are best described as chalky white with a layer of tan or brownish-colored membrane. They can grow to a size of 5 inches.

Soft shell clams live in soft sediments near the shoreline to about 50 feet deep. Like most clams, they are filter feeders. A large adult calm can filter over 50 liters of water a day. They draw water in through their incurrent siphon and filter out microscopic algae. Particles are ejected through the exhalent siphon.

Soft shell clams are native to the Northeast, from Canada to North Carolina, but have also been introduced to the Pacific coast. They are primarily harvested with hand rakes, also called bull rakes.

Soft shell clams usually spawn twice per year: once in late spring and once in mid- to late autumn. Where it has been introduced it is often considered an invasive species because of its ability to reproduce quickly and effectively.

Predators include snails, crabs, rays, sharks, flounder, waterfowl and gulls.

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