Hard Clam Hub Seeks to Improve Atlantic Coast Aquaculture Industry |

With catches in the United States estimated in 2018 at nearly $62 million, clams are an important socioeconomic species that are essential to the marine food web. That’s why a regional collaboration of scientists is focusing on two challenges that have been growing since the 1990s: a veterinary disease called Quahog Parasite Unknown (QPX) and warming coastal waters.

Josh Reitsma of Woods Hole Sea Grant, left, collects clam samples for study. At right is Bassem Allam of Stony Brook University, lead researcher. Inset: The hard clam, or northern quahog, Mercenaria mercenaria. Credit: Abigail Archer/WHOI Sea Grant.

The Hard Clam Selective Breeding Collaborative (Hard Clam Hub), a collection of surveys that began working in 2019 along the East Coast of the United States as part of a $16 million aquaculture study suite funded by the National Sea Grant College Program, is a partnership between scientists, Sea Grant Extension professionals from Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Florida, Cooperative Extension, and the public and private sectors.

This collaboration, administered by New York Sea Grant, is led by a Stony Brook University researcher Bassem Allam, Full Professor of Marinetics in Marine Sciences, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. The goal of this three-year effort is to improve the aquaculture industry on the Atlantic coast by finding and establishing more resistant clam seed lines.

In late May, Allam and other investigators from his lab visited members of the Woods Hole Sea Grant marine team as well as growers and hatcheries in Massachusetts to develop QPX-resistant quahog seeds, which do not harm humans but may cause economic loss to shellfish. Farmers.

For this part of Allam’s study, the team performed genetic testing on a total of 1,500 quahogs, which were then individually tagged. These clams will be sampled in a year to determine which genotypes performed best. Why? Because understanding all the genetic information stored in the organism’s DNA is essential to enable scientists to identify the parts of it that control responses against QPX disease and heat stress.

A major achievement of the Hard Clam Hub so far has been the publication of the clam’s genome, for which all of its genes have been cataloged. This achievement benefits the entire research community, creating the basis for identifying different genetic variations in clams.

Additionally, a newly developed tool is used to identify clam stocks that have higher resistance to QPX and heat stress. This brings the research team closer to providing resistant seed clams to improve production rates.

For more on this research, see New York Sea Grant website.

Hardclam my visit 0522 whoisgSince 1971, New York Sea Grant, a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, has been one of 34 college programs in NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program. The extension portion of NYSG programming is administered by Cornell Cooperative Extension.

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