The Department of Environmental Management and Narragansett Bay Commission are seeking commercial shellfishermen to participate in a quahog transplant next week. The clams harvested during the transplant will be used to enhance shellfish stocks in Rhode Island and provide a winter harvest opportunity for shellfishermen.

On Tuesday, September 15, an estimated 80,000 pounds of quahogs will be relayed from high shellfish density areas in upper Narragansett Bay into two established shellfish management areas in Narragansett Bay and a spawner sanctuary in Winnapaug Pond. Adult quahogs will be transplanted from the Providence River into the Greenwich Bay Shellfish Management Area and into the Bristol Harbor Shellfish Management Area on Tuesday, September 15. The event is weather permitting, with the weather day scheduled for September 16.

Quahogs will also be transplanted into Winnapaug Pond, Westerly as part of a shellfish enhancement project. This will be in collaboration with the Town of Westerly, the Southern Rhode Island Conservation District (SRICD), the Salt Ponds Coalition, and numerous volunteers. Protected broodstock placed in the Winnapaug Pond Spawner Sanctuary are expected to enhance juvenile clam recruitment in fishable areas, improve resident stocks, and provide future shellfishing opportunities in adjacent beds.

The shellfish transplant will take place between 8 a.m. and noon. Shellfishermen wishing to take part in the transplants should report to the on-scene DEM enforcement vessel by 8 a.m. Participants are expected to provide a completed W-9 Form at or prior to the event in order to participate. The officers will collect licenses to facilitate accounting.

Shellfishermen will be paid $10 for each 50-pound bag and for those that assist in stocking the clams, $15 for each 50-pound bag. Fishermen will dig the quahogs and take them to the anchored John H. Chafee research vessel for accounting. From there, the bags will be off-loaded from the skiffs onto waiting fishing vessels for subsequent transport to the respective receiving beds. Funding for this collaborative effort is provided by the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC), DEM, and the Town of Westerly.

Transplanted shellfish will be unavailable for harvest until December 2020. This temporary closure will allow the shellfish to adequately depurate prior to harvest.

The shellfish transplant program is a cooperative effort between DEM, NBC, the shellfish industry, the Town of Westerly, and the RI Department of Health, which tests shellfish before the transplants ensuring that they are safe to harvest. Previous transplant efforts have enhanced shellfish stocks in Narragansett Bay and in the South County coastal ponds.