Governor Dan McKee joined Mayor Frank Picozzi, Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit, and commercial quahoggers from the Rhode Island Shellfishermen’s Association to kick off the 5th Annual Rhode Island Quahog Week, which runs May 17 to May 23, shines a light on Rhode Island’s favorite local clam, the hardworking men and women who harvest them, and the vibrant local food industry that makes them available to consumers. As part of the week, participating restaurants and markets will feature quahog-inspired menu items and deals.
As part of the kickoff at Warwick’s Town Dock in Apponaug Cove, Governor McKee and Mayor Picozzi signed Quahog Week proclamations. Participants “toasted” the occasion with a freshly harvested quahog on the half shell. Following a brief speaking program, Governor McKee and Mayor Picozzi joined commercial quahoggers, Jody King and Dave Ghigliotti, for a brief outing on the waters to observe and participate in a quahog transplant demonstration.
“Quahog Week is an opportunity for Rhode Islanders to celebrate the vitality of our local shellfish industry and the bounty of Narragansett Bay,” said Governor McKee. “Quahogging has a rich history in the Ocean State and supports the livelihoods of hundreds of Rhode Island fishermen and women year-round, along with local restaurants and food-based businesses. Visiting one of the participating venues during Quahog Week to purchase quahogs to cook at home or enjoy a meal made with delicious, freshly harvested clams is a great way to support Rhode Island restaurants and seafood markets and a chance to savor a favorite quahog dish or try something new.”
“Rhode Island’s fisheries industry is one of the most important economic generators for our state,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. “This week is not just a celebration of our state’s vital Quahog industry, but it is also a celebration of the men and women who work to supply restaurants and grocery stores up and down the East Coast with one of Rhode Island’s most famous exports. With so many amazing restaurants in the Ocean State, I hope you can celebrate the week by going out to eat and supporting our local businesses and the Quahog industry at the same time!”
“The celebration of Quahog Week means a lot to Warwick, as the city is made up of 39 miles of beautiful coastline,” said Mayor Picozzi. “I’m looking forward to getting out on the water to learn from the best!”
“Opportunities to shellfish in Narragansett Bay and our coastal waters are increasing thanks to strong environmental laws and significant investments in pollution abatement programs implemented by DEM and local communities,” said DEM Director Coit. “I am proud of the work our team and partners are doing to protect and improve water quality in Narragansett Bay so activities like shellfishing can grow and thrive.”
“Quahogs and the shellfishermen who fish them are one of the great things about Rhode Island and make them unique and special,” said Mike McGiveney, president of the Rhode Island Shellfishermen’s Association.
DEM Director Coit announced a historic moment that many never thought possible. Beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, May 26 — for the first time (or at least in the 75 years since records have been kept) — a portion of the lower Providence River will open to shellfish harvesting on a conditional basis. Over 1,900 acres, or 35 percent of the Providence River, will open to shell fishing in accordance with a carefully developed harvest schedule and subject to the provision that not more than a half inch of rainfall has occurred in the prior seven days. The opening of this area is expected to result in a significant expansion of Rhode Island’s quahog fishery, with millions of additional clams available for harvest.
Quahogging is a year-round activity in Rhode Island, so the clams are available, freshly harvested, throughout the year. Demand tends to peak during the summer months, when stuffies and clam cakes serve as main attractions for shore-goers and tourists. Targeting the spring shoulder season for Quahog Week helps to increase consumer awareness, demand, sales and market opportunities for quahogs during a time of year when the fresh product is readily available, but often overlooked.
Quahogs are the most economically important fishery resource harvested from Narragansett Bay. Typically, over 20 million quahogs with an off-the-boat value exceeding $5 million are harvested from the bay on an average annual basis. Last year, landings dipped by about 35 percent, due to the pandemic. Landings are expected to bounce back this year, aided by the opening of the new shellfishing waters in the lower Providence River. Among all of Rhode Island’s inshore and offshore marine fisheries, quahogs are the fifth most valuable, following squid, scallops, lobster, and summer flounder (based on 2019 ex-vessel values).
Over 500 licensed commercial fishermen and women are engaged in the Rhode Island quahog fishery, with about half engaged year-round. More young people are entering the fishery, thanks in part to the availability of student shellfish licenses, which support good summer job opportunities, and to the apprenticeship program administered by the RI Shellfishermen’s Association.
The highlight of Quahog Week involves the many opportunities to access and savor fresh Rhode Island quahogs. Participating restaurants will feature quahog-inspired specials on their menus, and participating markets will offer deals for those who enjoy cooking their own clam dishes at home. With Quahog Week now in its fifth year, excitement is building, particularly as the number of participating restaurants and markets continues to grow.
To date, 24 restaurants and seven markets are participating in Quahog Week and will offer featured items throughout the week. Consumers should visit www.seafoodri.com for a full list of participating restaurants and markets and the specials they are offering. Additional restaurants and markets interested in participating are encouraged to sign up at www.seafoodri.com.
Participants in Quahog Week – consumers and retailers alike – are encouraged to share their experiences via social media posts: @RISeafoodRocks on Facebook and #QuahogWeek on Twitter.
Those interested in learning more about Rhode Island quahogs and the fishery can enjoy an array of video shorts, posted on the Quahog Week page at www.seafoodri.com. Also, Rhode Island Sea Grant will ship free copies of the beautiful and informative book, “Rhode Island’s Shellfish Heritage” to the first 50 people who request a copy and mention “Quahog Week” in their email request. Requests should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional free copies can be obtained for a modest shipping fee.
To support continued industry growth, the Rhode Island Seafood Marketing Collaborative promotes Rhode Island seafood in various ways, including events like Quahog Week.
Weekly landing tallies for quahogs harvested from R I waters – as well as all other species landed commercially in the state – are available on the www.seafoodri.com website.
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