Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A nemesis of clams is thriving as Maine’s waters warm » Yale Climate Connections

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For decades, the clammers of coastal Maine have woken up, put on their boots, and waded into the cold waters of the Atlantic to dig for soft-shell clams.

Clamming requires no special equipment, so it’s allowed generations of Mainers to work in the fishing industry without investing in expensive boats or gear.

Randall: “You use the strength of your own body to make a living.”

But Sara Randall, a researcher with the Downeast Institute, says the clammers’ way of life is in trouble.

As the climate changes, temperatures in the Gulf of Maine are rising faster than in most of the world’s oceans. The warmer water allows invasive green crabs to thrive.

The crabs prey on young soft-shell clams, so as the crab population has exploded, the state’s clam harvest has plummeted.

The Downeast Institute has organized a network of scientists to monitor the clam population.

And researchers are exploring ways to protect the clams, for example by using nets to keep predators away from certain areas.

So far, there are no easy solutions, so the warming climate is expected to bring more challenges to this cherished and vital part of Maine’s economy.

Randall: “There’s just this huge culture in Maine around harvesting soft-shell clams. … It would be tough to lose it.”

Reporting credit: Ethan Freedman / ChavoBart Digital Media

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