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Research Document - 2011/044

Assessment of softshell clam stocks of Québec’s coastal waters

By S. Brulotte


The Québec inshore waters softshell clam (Mya arenaria) stock status is determined primarily based on commercial fishery indicators. This document presents the methodologies and data that were presented during the peer review that took place in January 2011.

Softshell clams are present almost everywhere along the shoreline of the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence and Chaleurs Bay. Softshell clam harvesting is carried out almost exclusively with hand tools. Quebec's maritime regions are divided into three management units: North Shore, Gaspé Peninsula – Lower St. Lawrence and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. In recent decades, commercial harvesting has been practiced mainly on the Upper North Shore. There has been no commercial harvesting in the Gaspé and Lower St. Lawrence since 2006. Commercial landings in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine have totalled less than 1 t since 2005. Upper North Shore landings reached 1,173 t in 2000 and have been declining since. The harvesting effort dropped from 11,585 vendor-days in 2002 to 1,942 vendor-days in 2009. The effort was even lower in 2010 due to the closure of two clam processing plants on the Upper North Shore. Catch per unit effort was generally low between 2006 and 2008 compared to the 2002-2005 values. The size structures of landed clams vary from one sector to another. From 2008 to 2010, median size ranged between 52 and 78 mm on the major sectors harvested with proportions of sub-legal size clams in the landings ranging between 1 and 21%.

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