Numerous local, state, and federal agencies are involved to some degree in the permitting process and regulation of hard clam aquaculture in the United States. While there is no national oversight agency for aquaculture in the US, there are extensive regulations in place regarding predator controls, therapeutant use, and disease management. Permitting varies by location with numerous federal agencies providing some degree of oversight. These include:
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – which is responsible for coordinating national aquaculture policy and providing the industry with research, information, and extension services;
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – which regulates waste discharge from aquaculture facilities;
- The Fisheries and Wildlife Service (FWS) – which regulates the introduction and transport of fish; and,
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine is responsible for approving and monitoring the use of drugs and medicated feeds used in the aquaculture industry.
Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US Coast Guard, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and the US Army Corps of Engineers are involved in the permitting and management of hard clam aquaculture. Regulations shellfish farms must adhere to include the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Wild hard clams are managed at the state-level generally through measures such as gear restrictions, fishing seasons, and size limits. Each state has its own specific regulations which usually include some variation of the aforementioned management measures. For instance:
Massachusetts manages its hard clam fishery in partnership with local municipalities. Generally, it is the responsibility of municipalities to issue permits and administer licensing fees, coordinate spatial management, and establish gear restrictions. The only statewide regulation is a minimum size limit of one-inch thickness.
Rhode Island manages its hard clam fishery by implementing possession limits, fishing licenses, and seasons. Possession limits vary depending on the location, but generally range from three to twelve bushels a day. Hard clams are managed spatially within established management areas where clams can be legally harvested. Additionally, clams are harvested in a rotational manner allowing the area to recover post-harvest. Rhode Island conducts clam relays – transporting hard clams to specific areas to ensure optimal growth and reproduction based on environmental conditions and to avoid pollution. Rhode Island also conducts yearly stock surveys.
New York manages its hard clam fishery in partnership with local municipalities. Statewide regulations include gear restrictions and a minimum size limit of one-inch thickness. Commercial harvesters must have a New York State Digger permit. Some municipalities have conducted stock surveys and have developed spawner sanctuaries that are off-limits to harvesting. These sanctuaries aim to help increase spawning success rates for hard clams.
North Carolina manages hard clams through harvest and size limits. Additionally, North Carolina has established seasonal and area restrictions as well as relay programs.
While some states conduct stock surveys, most do not have current individual stock assessments which are needed to ensure the long-term health of hard clam fisheries.