Digging for new seafood markets

Most people think of clams as bite-sized creatures, with larger versions sometimes known as quahogs, especially in Rhode Island, but surf clams are something else again. More

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Digging for new seafood markets

SOMETHING'S FISHY: Members of the Atlantic Capes Fisheries team, from left: Vice President of Sales and Marketing Steve Zevitas, John Bloand, Suzanne O'Connell and Vice President and General Manager Thomas Slaughter III. The company has a fleet of eight dredging boats.
Posted 12/19/11

Most people think of clams as bite-sized creatures, with larger versions sometimes known as quahogs, especially in Rhode Island, but surf clams are something else again.

“They’re about the size of a small football,” said Thomas Slaughter, vice president and general manager of Atlantic Capes Fisheries Inc. in Bristol.

He explained that surf clams are 6 to 9 inches in length and weigh from 1 to 2 pounds. They cannot be gathered along the shore by hand like little clams, but live 60- to 125-feet deep in the ocean and are harvested by boat. Common foods that contain surf clams include chowder and fried-clam strips, Slaughter said.

While not a new product, Atlantic Capes found a new way to market surf clams and, in the process, the company expanded its line of products as well as its distribution territory to the Orient, said Slaughter and Steve Zevitas, vice president of sales and marketing.

Atlantic Capes Fisheries created a product known as “IQF (individually quick-frozen) Atlantic Surf Clam – Sushi Style,” distributed by one of several affiliates, Happy Clam.

The sushi surf clams are harvested in waters off the coast of Massachusetts where the sea bottom is soft, so less pressure is needed to dislodge the bivalve mollusks, thereby reducing sand embedded in each clam, according to Zevitas and Slaughter. Atlantic Capes has a fleet of eight dredging boats, kept off the coasts of Massachusetts and New Jersey.

A sustainable resource, Atlantic surf clams were one of the first species to have a fisheries-management plan as directed by the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1976, according to Atlantic Capes. The management plan is meant to ensure longevity of the supply for generations to come.

Atlantic Capes sells the Happy Clam sushi brand in the United States, Hong Kong and China, but not Rhode Island yet (plans are in the works to do so, the two men said). The company entered the sushi market about six months ago due to requests from customers, particularly in China. “We’d like to expand all over the world,” Zevitas said. “It’s in the works, but it takes a long time.”

It also will take time to know if the new product was a good move in the long term.

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