Rush on California clams spurs temporary ban on pumps

February 28, 2021 GMT

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — So many Californians have been using a simple new device to dig for clams during the coronavirus pandemic that the state has had to step in with emergency prohibitions on the practice, according to a newspaper report.

The adoption of hand-operated hydraulic pumps that allow people to harvest the shellfish faster and in greater numbers has put abundant clam stocks in newfound jeopardy, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported Saturday.


As a result, the state Fish and Game Commission this month temporarily banned use of the water-squirting pumps that have become the dominant tool of clammers in recent years, the newspaper said.

The pumps have allowed people to quickly haul in their daily limit of clams and helped fuel illegal harvesting of noncommercial species that are winding up on the black market, officials say.

A 2019 survey of clams taken in Tomales Bay, one of the state’s busiest clamming areas, showed 85% were obtained with the use of the new tool.

“It’s not to say we won’t allow it in the future, maybe under some restrictions,“ said Sonke Mastrup, environmental program manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. ”We just need time to explore it before we let things get any further down the tracks.“

The emergency rule, adopted Feb. 10 by unanimous vote of the state Fish and Game Commission and set to take effect in early March, temporarily bans use of the two-man pumps for as long as a year so the agency can analyze their impact on clam populations.

State Fish and Wildlife personnel said they view the emergency action as a stopgap measure, given a spike in clamming activity since the start of the pandemic, when shelter-in-place restrictions sparked heightened enthusiasm for outdoor recreation, including visits to the coast, the newspaper said.