Hydraulic Clam Dredge Effects on Benthic Habitat off the Northeastern United States
David H. Wallace and Thomas B. Hoff
Abstract. Hydraulic clam dredges have been used for fishing off the East Coast of the United States since World War II. Fisheries for Atlantic surfclam Spisula solidissima and ocean quahog Arctica islandica occur in waters less than 80 m deep, where storms and currents tend to dominate the disturbance regime. These fisheries cover only a relatively small area (less than 400 km2) of the shelf that is sandy. Therefore, natural events (storms, currents) have more effect on the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog essential fish habitat (EFH) than regulated hydraulic clam dredges. A workshop on the effects of fishing gear on marine habitats concluded that hydraulic clam dredges were not a major concern relative to otter trawls and scallop dredges. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council concurred with the conclusions of that workshop. The council concluded that any EFH impacts would be temporary and minimal. In addition, the council evaluated seven alternatives to minimize any potential impacts of hydraulic clam dredging and concluded that the “no action alternative” should be maintained and that no management measures were necessary (MAFMC 2003).