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Offshore clam - Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador regions

Arctic surf clam
Arctic surf clam
(Mactromeris polynyma)
Ocean quahog
Ocean quahog
(Arctica islandica)


This document constitutes the integrated fisheries management plan (IFMP), developed in conjunction with license holders for the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador regions offshore clam fishery. It is based on an ecosystem approach, employs co-management and continues the shared stewardship process used in this fishery to ensure sustainability of the fishery.

Where DFO is responsible for implementing obligations under land claims agreements, this IFMP will be implemented in a manner consistent with these obligations. In the event that an IFMP is inconsistent with obligations under land claims agreements, the provisions of the land claims agreements will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

This IFMP is not a legally binding instrument which can form the basis of a legal challenge. The IFMP can be modified at any time and does not fetter the Minister’s discretionary powers set out in the Fisheries Act. The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify any provision of the IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

Signed: Regional Director, Fisheries Management, Maritimes Region

Table of contents

1. Overview of the fishery
2. Stock assessment, science and traditional knowledge
3. Social, cultural and economic importance of the fishery
4. Management issues
5. Objectives
6. Access and allocations
7. Management measures for the duration of the plan
8. Shared stewardship arrangements
9. Compliance plan
10. Evaluation, monitoring and plan enhancement
11. Safety at sea


The offshore clam fishery has been operating on the Scotian Shelf since 1986 and on Grand Banks since 1989. The fishery has developed into a vertically integrated industry. The offshore clam fishery is managed on the basis of a total allowable catch (TAC) for Arctic surf clam and ocean quahog, divided into enterprise allocations (EAs), with an unlimited bycatch of northern propeller clam, Greenland cockles and other non-quota molluscs. Fishing effort is limited to the existing license holders. This IFMP provides the opportunity for continued joint industry-DFO project agreements to better assess the status of the stocks and habitat and the long-term sustainability of the fishery at established harvest levels.

1. Overview of the fishery

In 1980, research activity began along the Scotian Shelf to determine the resource potential of underused clam species in Atlantic waters. From 1980 to 1983, surveys were conducted by DFO, leading to the discovery of commercial quantities of Arctic surf clam on Banquereau and ocean quahogs on Sable Island and Western Banks (Rowell and Chaisson, 1983; Chaisson and Rowell, 1985). Commercial concentrations were not found in other areas on the Scotian Shelf.

Further research in 1986 enabled scientists to estimate that the surf clam resource on Banquereau had an exploitable biomass of 561,000 tonnes (t) with a maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of 17,000 t. This was regarded at the time as a highly preliminary estimate, given the limited nature of the survey. Results of a 3-month test fishery enabled scientists to revise the MSY estimate to 24,000 t. In 1987, a 3-year offshore fishery program was developed with industry consensus. In 1989, the regulated fishery began with TACs and EAs established based on biological information provided by the surveys and the test fishery plus an economic break-even analysis on the amount of resource required to achieve operational viability.

An exploratory fishery also commenced on Grand Banks in 1989. A preliminary resource assessment estimated an exploitable biomass of 504,000 t.

A surf clam resource assessment on Banquereau was conducted during 1996-1997 (Roddick and Smith, 1999) following 7 years of commercial fishing. Among the main findings:

Detailed clam surveys were conducted on Sable Island Bank in 2003, Banquereau in 2004, 2010 and 2016 and Grand Banks from 2006 to 2009.

In 2015, external international experts contracted by DFO delivered reviews on both the science and management approaches in the offshore clam fishery. Recommendations from these reports were evaluated through the DFO advisory committee and Science advice processes.

A summary chronology of major milestones in the development of the offshore clam fishery is included below and in Appendix 6.

1.1 Fishery development

1.1.1 Exploratory years: 1987-1989

A 3-year commercial fishery commenced on the Scotian Shelf in 1987 and was reviewed after the 1989 season. An annual 30,000 t TAC was established for Banquereau, with another 15,000 t for the remainder of the Scotian Shelf.

3 companies participated: Pursuit Fisheries and the Nova Scotia Clam Co. shared the Banquereau TAC (15,000 t each) while Pursuit Fisheries, the Nova Scotia Clam Co. and Mother Snow’s shared the TAC on the remainder of the Scotian Shelf (5,000 t each).

The 1987 fishery involved 2 of the 3 companies; 1 operating on Banquereau (Pursuit Fisheries) and the other, (Mother Snow’s in joint venture with National Sea Products), conducting exploratory fishing elsewhere on the Scotian Shelf (and in NAFO Areas 3LNO). At this early stage of the fishery, the companies relied on vessels chartered from the U.S. clam fishery, with shucking and processing completed in shore-based plants. The third company, Nova Scotia Clam Co., was engaged exclusively in marketing.

In 1988, the fishery gained momentum when both companies holding a surf clam EA for Banquereau were active. The Pursuit-Clearwater consortium started the year with a chartered vessel, but by year-end used their own Canadian-registered factory freezer vessels, Atlantic Pursuit and Atlantic Vigour. Late in 1988, the Mother Snow’s-National Sea consortium obtained a licence to operate on the Scotian Shelf, excluding Banquereau Bank.

In 1989, the fishery expanded to include Grand Banks; with a precautionary TAC of 20,000 t. Pursuit-Clearwater and the Nova Scotia Clam Co. were awarded exploratory licences, while Mother Snow’s-National Sea and Atlantic Surf Clam Co. were also issued exploratory licences. The latter obtained permission to use the Norwegian-registered factory freezer vessel Concordia for its operations. Atlantic Surf Clam Co. also acquired access to the Scotian Shelf. In 1989 the Arctic surf clam (Mactromeris polynyma) officially became a regulated species.

1.1.2 Expansion and consolidation: 1987-1994

Companies entering the fishery after 1987 focused their efforts on the potential Japanese market. Little was known at that time concerning the nature and size of the Japanese market, other than the existing market in the northern part of the country, for a similar species.

By the end of 1989, the economic climate of the fishery had deteriorated. The early (pre-1987) participation in the fishery was predominately based on expectations of a strong U.S. market; however, demand failed to materialize largely due to the characteristics (mainly colour) of the Arctic surf clam being visibly different from the Atlantic surf clam; the dominant clam in the U.S. processed food market.

The Japanese market proved insufficient to support the Canadian industry at its capacity and level of investment and it was apparent structural changes were required. This was accomplished in the early 1990s, in conjunction with the Canadian and provincial governments, through a generic promotion program and independent marketing initiatives of the individual fishing companies.

The multi-year (1990-94) Arctic Surf clam Management Plan implemented important changes in the terms of resource access. While the TACs for each of the fishing areas (Banquereau and Grand Banks) remained unchanged (at 30,000 t and 20,000 t respectively), allocations were shared between the 4 licence holders and the administration of the fishery was simplified through the inclusion of the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador regions into a singular IFMP.

Although clam landings gradually responded to increased Japanese market demands, catches remained at approximately 40 percent (%) of the 1994 50,000 t TAC.

1.1.3 Management for sustainability: 1995-2002

In 1995, the Minister approved a 3-year management plan (the 1995-1997 Offshore Clam Fishery Multi-Year Harvesting Plan). The key elements of the plan included:

The 1995-1997 plan stressed the need for improved scientific data to ensure sustainable harvesting. Several information gaps were cited for both Banquereau and Grand Banks, including the lack of reliable estimates of the standing stock biomass, growth rates, recruitment and natural mortality. In the absence of this information, no scientific basis existed for advice on TACs.

A 5-year plan was approved for 1998-2002, the Offshore Surf clam Integrated Fishery Management Plan. This plan extended the general theme of the previous plan, incorporating similar management measures (EAs and TACs). Major issues continued to be the identification of a sustainable yield and the need to determine a scientifically based TAC. Research completed in 1999 addressed this deficiency for Banquereau.

The 1998-2002 plan also identified pre-condition factors to be evaluated when considering whether or not to award new licences; such as uncertainty surrounding recruitment, sustainability of the fishery, market conditions and a combined surf clam TAC established at or beyond a 50,000 t level.

This plan was extended pending finalization of a new long-term IFMP (2005-2009).

1.1.4 Return of ocean quahogs to the fishery: 2003-2004

In 1989, the Offshore Clam Fishery Management Plan authorized both a bycatch of ocean quahogs (Arctica islandica) fishery on Banquereau and a directed ocean quahog fishery on Western and Sable Island Banks. Due, in part, to a lack of interest in ocean quahogs in the 1990s, a directed ocean quahog fishery on the Scotian Shelf was omitted from the 1998-2002 management plan.

In 2001, Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership submitted a proposal for departmental consideration for the re-introduction of a directed ocean quahog fishery on the Scotian Shelf (Sable Island Bank).

In September 2002, DFO provided an Expert Opinion on the Clearwater/Deep Sea Clam Ocean Quahog Development Proposal. Results from the discussions and analysis of the proposal indicated that a provisional allocation of 11,587 t of ocean quahogs on Sable Island Bank could be provided to the current licence holder. To coincide with this allocation, a comprehensive Joint Project Agreement (JPA) was developed between DFO and Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership for the further scientific study of ocean quahogs which initiated a joint industry-DFO survey for quahogs on Sable Island Bank in 2003.

A provisional allocation of 800 t of ocean quahogs was established to support bycatch requirements of the directed surf clam fishery on Banquereau.

1.1.5 Scientific support for management: 2005-2011

In 2007, the first assessments were completed for the Arctic surf clam on Banquereau, and for the ocean quahog on Sable Bank and St. Mary’s Bay. These assessments suggested that the TAC for surf clams be set somewhere between 38,599 and 116,968 mt, though it was recommended to select a TAC on the lower end of the range. Similarly, the quahog TAC recommendation for Sable Bank was between 13,602 and 41,217 mt and for St. Mary’s Bay was 2,344 mt. These assessments also discussed the impact of clam dredges on the substrate and on benthic communities. Due to the uncertainties with the total biomass of the stock, the TAC was set conservatively at 24,000 mt for Banquereau and at 20,000 mt for Grand Bank.

In 2010, an assessment was performed for Grand Bank based on survey data collected during 2006, 2008 and 2009. In 2011, Banquereau Bank was reassessed based on data collected in 2010. These outlined the need for appropriate management of the fishery, as surf clams are very long lived and if depleted would take a long time to recover. For the Grand Bank stock, no specific advice was given for setting a TAC, but instead some uncertainties surrounding the patchiness and variable density of clam beds, impact of densities on effective F and CPUE, benthic impact and bycatch issues were raised. For the Banquereau stock, the TAC recommendation was between 27,592 and 30,375 mt. The TAC selected for Banquereau remained steady at 24,000 mt following these assessments; however the TAC for Grand Bank was amended to 14,756 mt in 2011.

1.1.6 Newest developments: 2012-2019

In 2016, an assessment of the Arctic surf clam stock on Banquereau was conducted. In this assessment, the stock was found to be in the Healthy Zone. It was recommended that harvest levels be set based on the stock biomass in the fished areas as opposed to the biomass of the whole bank; setting potential harvest levels based on the estimated biomass in the fished areas would increase the likelihood that the areas that have supported a commercial fishery since 1986 are not depleted. Setting potential harvest levels based on an estimated biomass for the full bank could increase the likelihood that these historically fished areas might be depleted. Using the proposed fishing mortality level of 0.5 FMSY, the TAC recommendation was 20,943 mt for Banquereau. In 2018, the TAC for Banquereau was amended to follow the recommendation of the 2017 assessment.

1.2 Type of fishery

1.2.1 Commercial

The offshore clam fishery is entirely commercial in nature and managed on the basis of an EA program. Each licence receives an equal percentage share of the annual TAC for each fished area (Banquereau and Grand Bank).

1.2.2 Recreational

Due to the offshore nature of this fishery, there is no recreational component present.

1.2.3 Exploratory

All licences in the offshore clam fishery permit exploratory fishing outside of the Banquereau Bank and Grand Banks fishing areas, upon requesting and receiving permission from the DFO prior to exploratory fishing activities.

1.2.4 Indigenous fishery

At this time, there are no licences held by Indigenous entities within this fishery.

1.3 Current participants

The industry currently consists of Arctic Surfco Incorporated*, Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership (NS) (2 licences) and a third licence issued to Clearwater Seafood Limited Partnership (NFLD), which was previously issued to Deep Sea Clam Company Inc.

Licence holder Number of vessel(s) authorized
Arctic Surfco Incorporated (NL)* 1
Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership (NL) 1
Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership (NS) 2

*Arctic Surfco Incorporated is a wholly owned subsidiary of Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership.

The vessels in the fishery are specialized factory freezer clam vessels that operate year round and the licences have equal allocations for both commercial fishing areas (Banquereau and Grand Banks). The licensed vessels land product for further processing in Grand Bank, NL and Glace Bay, NS and in some cases product is shipped directly to markets. The licences are issued from DFO’s offices in Halifax and St. John’s. As of 2019, there are 3 vessels operating in the fishery.

1.4 Location of the fishery

The Arctic surf clam fishery is concentrated on offshore clam beds located on Grand Banks and Banquereau. See reference map (Appendix 4) and note Section 5.3 of this plan regarding that portion of Grand Banks grounds which extends beyond the 200 mile economic zone. The ocean quahog resource is located on Sable Island Bank (Appendix 5) as well as the southern Grand Banks. This plan authorizes the license holders to commence a directed commercial fishery for ocean quahogs on Sable Island Bank.

1.5 Fishery characteristics

1.5.1 Gear

The gear authorized for use in this fishery is a hydraulic clam dredge. This device is a metal cage 4.25 m wide by 6.25 m long by 1.36 m high weighing approximately 10 t. Seawater is pumped to a manifold on the front of the dredge where nozzles direct the water backward at a 45° angle into the seabed. This agitates the substrate in advance of the dredge cutting blade.

As the dredge moves forward, the clams slide over a grating that allows immature clams to escape while retaining larger, mature clams. The loosened sediment allows the clams to float in slurry as the blade directs it up and into the cage section of the dredge.

1.5.2 Time frame of the fishery

The fishery is conducted on a year-round basis. The fishing season for Arctic surf clam on Banquereau and Grand Bank is January 1 to December 31. The fishing season for ocean quahogs on Sable Island Bank is January 1 to December 31.

1.5.3 Quota management and TAC setting

The offshore clam fishery operates under an EA system with annual TACs. The TAC is determined through formal scientific assessments (see Section 2.5 ). Since 2016, the fishing mortality (F) target on Banquereau Bank at MSY is estimated to be 1/2 of natural mortality (M). FMSY is applied to the harvestable biomass, such that the TAC is set at 4.5% of the harvestable biomass.

For Grand Bank, the TAC is set using an upper removal reference rate F = 0.33M (0.0264) applied to the harvestable survey biomass >75 g/m². The approach taken on Grand Bank is dependent on a range of factors, including the different growth and maturity rates on Grand Bank in comparison to Banquereau, along with the patchiness and variable density of clam beds, including the mixed clam composition of the catch.

Once the TAC is established, the EAs are allocated based on the percentage to which each licence holder is entitled. Bycatch controls are applied via license conditions that limit retention of bycatch species.

In addition to these management measures, the Offshore Clam Working Group (OCWG) reviews the operation of the fishery, recommends changes (consistent with the IFMP’s objectives) to Offshore Clam Advisory Committee (OCAC) and provides an annual report on the fishery to OCAC. A key requirement of the OCWG is to implement the annual work plan elements. The Terms of Reference of the OCWG are attached as Appendix 3.

All decision-making authority with regard to access, allocations and TACs remains with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

1.6 Governance

1.6.1 Legislation, regulations and licensing policy

The offshore clam fishery is managed and regulated through the following acts, regulations and policies:

Offshore clam licences are issued pursuant to the absolute discretion of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans as per Section (7) of the Fisheries Act. The issuance of licence conditions is pursuant to Section (22), Fishery (General) Regulations.

The policies governing the issuance of these licences, including licence re-issuance and transfer, licence conditions, vessel replacement policy, fisher and vessel registrations and general policy guidelines may be found in the 1996 Commercial Fisheries Licencing Policy for Eastern Canada  and other approved licencing policy documents.

1.6.2 Advisory committees

The Offshore Clam Advisory Committee is the consultative forum for issues affecting the offshore clam fishery and is open to the public. It is composed of representatives from the DFO, licence holders, the provincial governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador and Indigenous entities. Observers are also invited to attend. The Terms of Reference and Membership List are attached as Appendix 2. It is chaired by a representative of DFO and provides input and advice to DFO on the conservation, protection and management of the offshore clam resource on Canada’s Atlantic coast (refer to Appendix 2).

OCAC meets at least once per year, or as required, prior to quota decisions for the next season. While specific issues may be discussed by the OCWG, formal scientific advice is presented to OCAC and discussed on this occasion.

Prior to scientific advice being formally tabled at OCAC, it is first reviewed publicly during DFO Science’s Regional Advisory Process (RAP) or internally by DFO scientists if the advice is provided as a Science update.

1.6.3 Regional advisory process

The Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) provides science advice on the status of the stocks through the Regional Advisory Process (RAP). Industry participates in the peer review meeting of the stock advice. The stock status advice in the form of a Science advisory report (SAR), research document or Science response is a primary input for the consultations on management of the fishery at the OCAC. Research documents, SARs or Science response documents are available from the DFO CSAS website.

1.6.4 Approval process

Recommendations and advice to DFO on the management of the offshore clam fisheries are provided through the OCAC. This information is reviewed and assessed prior to decisions and/or approvals granted by senior management officials within DFO.

1.6.5 Term of the offshore clam integrated fisheries management plan

The Offshore Clam IFMP remains in effect until replaced. The plan is to be reviewed and amended as required. 

2. Stock assessment, science and traditional knowledge

2.1 Biological synopsis

2.1.1 Quota species

The Arctic surf clam (Mactromeris polynyma), also commonly known as Stimpson’s surf clam, is a large clam (75-125 mm), similar in appearance to the more common Atlantic surf clam (Spisula solidissima). The main distinguishing feature is that most specimens of Arctic surf clam have a purple colour in the foot and mantle that turns red upon cooking, similar to lobster and shrimp. This species is found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in medium to large grain sediments and water temperatures of less than 15˚C. On the east coast of Atlantic Canada, large commercial fisheries occur on Banquereau and Grand Bank. These clams are slow-growing and long-lived; the oldest aged to date was calculated to be over 56 years old and the largest was 157 mm. Preliminary estimates of age indicate that a large percentage of the unharvested population on Banquereau attains an age of 40 years. The age and size at 50% maturity for Arctic surf clam on Banquereau are 8.3 years and 45.2 mm. On Grand Bank, the values are lower at 5.3 years and 39.9 mm (Roddick et al 2011, 2012)

The ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) is a very slow-growing species, which experiences episodic recruitment. These phenomena, combined with sparse data, support the calculation of sustainable harvest rates via approximation methods. The implications of the biology of this species may require a conservative harvest strategy.

In general, ocean quahogs reach maturity over a protracted period of time, both as a population and as individuals. They also have a protracted and variable spawning period with ripe individuals being found year round and peak spawning times varying from year to year at the same location. They mature at 7 to 30 years of age and males appear to mature earlier than females in most sites studied. Changes in the sex ratio with size indicate that females live longer than males.

With the size of 50% maturity of Arctic surf clam below commercial sizes, and the TAC set as a small fraction of total biomass, the fishery is not anticipated to experience low biomass levels. Nevertheless, since long-lived species also tend to experience sporadic recruitment events, low biomass levels would cause concerns. Should an extended period of poor recruitment coincide with declining mature biomass levels, special measures, including area closures, may be considered.

2.1.2 Other retained species

The northern propeller clam (Cyrtodaria siliqua) is a large clam, reaching lengths of up to 110 mm and ages over 100 years. It grows rapidly in the first 20 years and then growth slows. It lives in deep waters and burrows completely into the sediment. This species has separate male and female individuals. A study on propeller clams from Banquereau found the size and age at 50% sexual maturity to be 28.6 mm and 4.7 years (Kilada et al 2009).

Greenland cockle (Serripes groenlandicus) inhabits depths up to 100 m. It grows rapidly in the first 9 years (80-90 mm) and then growth slows. This species has both male and female tissue in a single individual. A study of Greenland cockles from Banquereau found the size and age at 50% sexual maturity to be 27.92 mm and 2.83 years for male tissues and 37.22 mm and 3.69 years for female (Kilada et al 2007).

2.2 Ecosystem interactions

Arctic surf clams and ocean quahogs are filter feeders and are in turn preyed upon by large groundfish, such as cod as well as some species of whelks. The quantities consumed by their predators and the resultant impact on the clam stocks remain unknown.

As both the Arctic surf clam and ocean quahog are sedentary (i.e., non-migratory and bottom dwelling in the adult stage), environmental variations are thought to mainly influence the survival of the larval stages. For example, changes in water temperature may alter the amount and location of preferred habitat available for settlement.

In response to concerns of the effects of hydraulic clam dredging on the bottom habitat and localized organisms, a multi-year collaborative research program on Banquereau Bank was initiated by DFO Science (both Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador regions), the Geological Survey of Canada, Atlantic and licence holders. The long-term impacts on the habitat and benthic community of areas fished specific to the use of a hydraulic clam dredge were studied at a deep site of 65–70 m depth on Banquereau over a 10-year period (Gilkinson et al. 2015, Gilkinson et al. 2003, Gilkinson et al. 2005). The largest quantified species impact was the removal of target and non-target clams from the area, both from harvesting and from incidental mortality. Given the still nature of clams and their slow growth rate, this is a long-term impact that is considered when setting harvest strategy rates. The experiment demonstrated immediate impacts on both habitat and non-target organisms within the first 2 years following dredging. The species composition in the dredged sites seemed to be dominated by colonizing species 3 years after dredging. Results from sidescan sonar imaging infer that changes to the sediment structure caused by dredging can persist for 10 years or longer. The persistence of dredge tracks at deep sites suggests that water depth likely influences track persistence, with shallower areas having sediments that are more actively worked by waves and currents. Hydraulic clam dredge fisheries occur on fairly mobile, well-sorted sand, which may help mitigate the overall impact on some elements of the benthic community. In general, most clam fishing happens in areas of the bank shallower than the deep site used in this study, in areas that would be more actively worked by waves and currents.

2.3 Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK)

While there is no formal mechanism to include TEK, fish harvesters participate in the peer review of the stock assessment and contribute their knowledge and experience to the process in this way.

2.4 Aboriginal ecological knowledge

There is no aboriginal ecological knowledge available for this stock at this time.

2.5 Stock assessment

Surf clam is assessed on a multi-year assessment schedule, with updates produced in interim years. Until 2016, stock assessments were based on periodic surveys, with updates based on analysis of commercial fishery and sampling data. In 2016, a framework (Hubley et al 2018) was developed for Banquereau incorporating recommendations from 2 reviews of the Arctic surf clam science and management (Hoenig and Orensanz). It was recognized that the habitat preferences and spatial distribution of surf clam is a key factor to consider in the management of the resource. Habitat mapping has not been done for this stock, so high resolution Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) location data was used to represent suitable clam habitat, creating a proxy of habitat mapping. This proxy assumes that fishing effort is related to surf clam density and that the fishery has targeted all areas with commercial concentrations since VMS was implemented in 2004. 5 spatial assessment areas are used to divide Banquereau. For each of the assessment areas, a surplus production model was fit to a time series of CPUE data and areal expansion of the surf clam density (g/m²) was limited to the fished area. This was a change from assessments previous to 2016, which estimated biomass for the entire bank.

There is currently no assessment model for surf clam on Grand Bank or the other clam species on either bank. Annual updates provide information on landings for all species, and also catch per unit effort, and fishery footprint for surf clam.

Surveys were conducted through industry-funded joint project agreements. Surveys were conducted on Sable Island Bank in 2003, Banquereau in 2004, Grand Bank in 2006-2009 and Banquereau in 2010.

2.6 Stock scenarios

The current assessment methodology does not allow for stock projections of Arctic surf clam. Since surf clam is a long-lived species, recruitment to the population is an issue of interest. On Banquereau Bank, ageing data from studies in the 1980s indicated that the clams reached an age of 40 years or more and that the size range of commercial interest represents clams 10 to 15 years old. This is well above the age of maturity for this area; however, with regular recruitment, it may be 10 to 15 years before an area could be re-harvested.

The oldest quahog aged to date from the 2003 survey on Sable Island Bank was 210 years old. This long lifespan means the stock only requires successful year-classes every few decades for the population to survive.

2.7 Current research

In 2018, a memorandum of understanding (MOU), outlining several cooperative research projects, was developed between DFO and Clearwater Seafoods. A 3-year collaborative agreement providing financial support for the research projects was signed in early 2019. The research to be conducted under the MOU will increase understanding of stock spawning and reproductive capacity for Arctic surf clam, inform new conversion factors for northern propeller clam, Greenland cockle and ocean quahog and collect growth and biological data for all 4 species.

Specific to the work on Arctic surf clam, new research and protocols will be developed to quantify reproductive capacity and examine the relationship between size and reproductive capacity. Research will be done on the reproductive cycle and spawning period of Arctic surf clam with the aim to establish the timing and frequency of spawning on both banks.

Laboratory studies on morphometry for all species will be combined with previously collected data and used to develop condition (meat weight/shell height relationship) time series for both banks. New and previous ageing data will also be used to look at growth rates and potential changes over time.

2.8 Potential future projects

The following projects would be useful for advancing science in this fishery. There are currently no scheduled timelines or commitments to undertake this research.

  1. Development of a stratified survey design to effectively estimate abundance of both directed and bycatch (ocean quahogs, Greenland cockles and northern propeller clams) species.
  2. Continue to advance our understanding of the effects of hydraulic gear on the habitat, recruitment and incidental mortality of clams, other molluscs and the benthic community.
  3. Dredge selectivity studies to determine the size selection effect of existing commercial dredges and survey gear if/when a survey is undertaken.
  4. Genetics study that use modern methodologies to test the assumption that Grand Bank and Banquereau are a homogeneous population

The OCWG will recommend specific research projects to the OCAC for consideration.

3. Social, cultural and economic importance of the fishery

3.1 Socio-economic overview of the offshore clam fishery

The Arctic surf clam fishery provides important economic benefits in Atlantic Canada, particularly in the offshore harvesting sectors off Nova Scotia (NS) and Newfoundland & Labrador (NL), as well as onshore with further processing, marketing and distribution activities.

As of 2018, the commercial harvest of Arctic surf clam has occurred for about 30 years on Banquereau and Grand banks. During this time, the fishery grew from an exploratory fishery in the late 1980s into an established commercial fishery with a more formalized EA management regime by 1995.

The fishery provides employment in both NS and eastern NL for people working onboard large factory freezer trawlers, as well as additional employment with shore-based value-added processing. Additional economic activity and employment is generated through administration, marketing and distribution of Arctic surf clam products, as well as production from incidental catch in the fishery, such as cockles and propeller clams.

Indirect economic benefits associated with the Arctic surf clam fishery result from the associated investment in technology, gear and equipment, fuel and other costs associated with harvesting. Induced economic benefits from this fishery are realized in the Atlantic region through the spending of wages in the economy by people directly employed and other related spending.

A 2017 economic analysis commissioned by Clearwater and completed by Gardner Pinfold provides a summary of direct and indirect benefits associated with the offshore clam fishery (see Table 1).

Table 1: Direct and indirect (spinoff) economic and employment benefits associated with the operation of the offshore clam fishery, based on an economic analysis performed in 2017.
  Nova Scotia Newfoundland and Labrador Total
Output value ($000s)
Direct 81,000 49,000 130,000
Spinoff 36,500 17,150 53,650
Total impact 117,500 66,150 183,650
GDP ($000s)
Direct 47,000 28,400 75,400
Spinoff 21,500 12,200 33,700
Total impact 68,500 40,600 109,100
Income ($000s)
Direct 13,500 9,000 22,500
Spinoff 4,100 3,200 7,300
Total impact 17,600 12,200 29,800
Employment (FTE)
Direct 250 200 450
Spinoff 90 90 180
Total impact 340 290 630
Source: Statistics Canada Interprovincial Input-Output Model

3.2 Exports

A significant portion of product in the export data may not be labeled accurately enough to relate to this particular fishery. Therefore, the figures shown in this section relate to the export of all clam species and related product categories from all sources and fisheries. The vast majority of the clam export value is thought to relate to the offshore fishery.

The value of Atlantic Canadian clam exports¹ averaged about $60 million during the period 2000 to 2017, reaching a high of $103 million in 2017². The growth in the value of the clam fishery coincides with the growth in export volumes during this period. The offshore clam fishery is likely a large driver of this increase in volume due to the recapitalization of the fleet during this time, which resulted in higher landings. Over 80% of the clam export value is frozen product.

Please see Figure 1 for the total Atlantic Canadian clam export value from 2000 to 2017.

Figure 1. For details, refer to the description that follows.

Figure 1: Atlantic Canadian clam export value, 2000-2017.


Figure 1 shows the total Atlantic Canadian clam export value from 2000 to 2017 in millions of dollars.

China and Hong Kong have become the most important market destination by value for Atlantic Canadian clam exports. Exports to these markets rose from below $10 million in 2007 to about $59 million by 2017.

Exports to Japan reached a high during the period of $36 million in 2002 before declining to about $8 million by 2007 and then remaining relatively stable at that level through 2017. The US market has remained relatively stable over the period, averaging around $18 million.

Please see Figure 2 for Atlantic Canadian clam export value by market destination from 2000 to 2017.

Figure 2. For details, refer to the description that follows.

Figure 2: Atlantic Canadian clam export value by market destination, 2000-2017.


Figure 2 shows the Atlantic Canadian clam export value by market destination from 2000 to 2017. China/Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, US and other countries are shown on the graph.

Figure 3 displays 2017 Atlantic Canadian clam export value by market destination and shows the importance of the China and Hong Kong markets. The US and Japan were the next most important markets in 2017 with 23% and 8% respectively.

Figure 3. For details, refer to the description that follows.

Figure 3: Atlantic Canadian clam export value by market destination, 2017.


Figure 3 shows the Atlantic Canadian clam export value by market destination in 2017. China/Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, US and other countries are shown.

4. Management issues

4.1 Issue: Sustainable yield

The TAC for Arctic surf clam on Banquereau is determined by scientific assessment advice, the most recent of which was completed in 2017.

The TAC for Arctic surf clam on Grand Banks has been determined following recent detailed scientific advice from the 2010 Grand Bank assessment.

A survey of the ocean quahog stock on Sable Bank in 2003 provided stock status and TAC advice for this fishery.


To continue with joint (government/industry) studies of the resource to monitor biomass and optimum sustainable yield and other management measures, which may be required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resource.

4.2 Issue: New entrants

The Minister of DFO can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify access, allocations and sharing arrangements as outlined in this IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act. While the department may receive future requests for new licences for this fishery, such requests are subject to consultations. Should a new entrant(s) be selected for this fishery, they will be required to follow the established provisions as identified below.


Consideration for new licences may take into account:

Should a new licence(s) be issued:

4.3 Issue: Bycatch

Co-occurring molluscan shellfish species, with the exception of whelk, may be retained as an incidental bycatch during this fishery. In 2009, DFO excluded the ability of this fishery to retain whelk due to the development of a directed exploratory whelk fishery. Although minimal incidental bycatch of groundfish species may inadvertently occur, no bycatch of fin fish can be retained.


Licence conditions authorize the retention of co-occurring molluscan species and identify the conservation and reporting provisions required. At present, each licence holder is permitted an unlimited retention of encountered propeller clams, Greenland cockle clams and other non-quota molluscs, apart from whelk. It is acknowledged that other species, including whelk, are encountered in the normal course of fishing. Management for the offshore clam fishery will consider ongoing bycatch needs. Research is underway to inform potential management approaches for co-occurring molluscan shellfish that are permitted to be retained.

Information on bycatch, whether or not it is retained, is important for the management of the fishery. Information on encountered species is collected through the observer program and retained bycatch is recorded in the fishing logs.

Ocean quahog landings on Sable Island Bank and Banquereau Bank are subject to TAC limits. Ocean quahogs on Grand Banks are restricted to a 10% bycatch level, to a maximum of 500 t, until such time as scientific advice supports a change.

4.4 Issue: Fishing more than 1 quota area per trip

Licence holders are permitted, by condition of licence, to fish more than 1 quota area and species during the same trip.


In order to be authorized to fish more than 1 quota area during the same trip, DFO must be formally notified prior to transiting between quota areas.

4.5 Issue: Oil and gas

The Eastern Scotian Shelf and Grand Banks are subject to ongoing oil and gas exploration and development. The potential exists for conflicts between the offshore clam fishery and the oil and gas sector. For example, it is possible that clam dredges could be damaged by, or alternatively, interfere with or damage submerged oil and gas infrastructure. Seismic surveys may coincide with fishing areas, which could result in operational challenges for both industries. In such instances of conflict, the licence holder will endeavor to seek resolution with the oil and gas operator or access existing compensation programs through respective Federal Provincial Petroleum Boards. Some research entities (e.g., Ocean Supercluster, Environmental Studies Research Foundation) may be used to inform on issues of common concern.

DFO will liaise with the respective petroleum boards to ensure that projects subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act  (CEAA) adequately mitigate concerns and issues related to this fishery. On-going communication and monitoring strategies may be considered important approaches for developments in these areas.

4.6 Issue: Marine mammals

The Government of Canada is taking all necessary actions to help protect Canada's endangered whales. Within Atlantic Canadian waters, the North Atlantic right whales are of the greatest concern. DFO has implemented measures to protect the North Atlantic right whales from ship strikes and gear entanglements, including entanglements in ghost gear.

The offshore clam fishery does not use any fishing gear, which might entangle a marine mammal. There have been no known interactions with marine mammals in this fishery. As per licence conditions, the licence holder/operator must provide information regarding all lethal and non-lethal marine mammal interactions during fishing trips.

4.7 Issue: Marine conservation targets

The Government of Canada committed to protecting 5% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2017 and 10% by 2020 and both targets have been met. The 2020 target is both a domestic target (Canada’s Biodiversity Target 1) and an international target as reflected in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Target 11 and the United Nations General Assembly’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under Goal 14. The 2017 and 2020 targets are collectively referred to as Canada’s marine conservation targets. The Government of Canada will continue to meet its mandate to conserve marine biodiversity. All up-to-date information, including the background and drivers for Canada’s marine conservation targets, is available on the DFO website.

To meet these targets, Canada established Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and other effective area-based conservation measures (other measures), in consultation with industry, non-governmental organizations and other interested parties. An overview of these tools, including a description of the role of fisheries management measures that qualify as other measures is available on the DFO website.

Specific management measures established for the offshore surf clam fishery have been identified to contribute to Canada’s marine conservation targets. More information on these management measures and their conservation objectives is provided in Section 7.5.

5. Obectives

5.1 General

Long-term objectives include:

5.2 Conservation/sustainability

The primary objective of the plan is to ensure that a biologically and economically sustainable offshore clam fishery continues through the auspices of scientifically-based management plans involving collaborative enforcement, monitoring and regulatory measures. A further objective includes the continued cooperation between the licence holders and DFO in establishing ongoing management measures that will minimize impacts of harvesting on the habitat.

The precautionary approach (PA) is a decision making process with rules to identify triggers and responses during periods of changing stock health. A PA framework has been developed for the offshore surf clam fishery (Appendix 7).

5.3 International considerations

Sedentary clam resources existing beyond the 200-mile Canadian exclusive economic zone, contiguous to Grand Banks, remain under Canadian fisheries management.

5.4 Domestic considerations

  1. Recreational fishery

There are no recreational elements involved in this fishery.

  1. Inshore quahog fisheries

Inshore quahog fisheries occur in Southwest Nova Scotia (SWNS) and include bycatch of other clam species. The fishery in SWNS is conducted by 1 core enterprise licence and 1 First Nations licence with vessels having length-over-all (LOA) less than 45 feet. This fishery operates with specific localized area quotas, inside the Territorial Sea Geographical Baseline (TSGB) from Pennant Point to the 65 30 line (Baccaro) and in St Mary’s Bay and by a competitive fishery from the TSGB out to the 20 mile line. A Conservation Harvesting Plan (CHP) outlines the consultation process and includes management measures, which require dockside verification, hail in/hail out and seasons. There is a requirement for an approved Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with DFO and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) prior to fishing.

In Southwest New Brunswick (SWNB), an inshore quahog fishery is still under development.

  1. Exploratory

While the existing offshore harvesting areas represent the major identified commercial concentrations of clams, opportunities remain for further exploration.

6. Access and allocations

6.1 Sharing arrangements

All licence holders will share the TAC equally as identified in the annual EA schedule.

6.2 Allocations

Arctic surf clam enterprise allocation % share of TAC
Licence holder Banquereau Grand Bank
Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership (NS) 33.3% 33.3%
Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership (NL) 33.3% 33.3%
Arctic Surfco Incorporated (Clearwater) (NL) 33.3% 33.3%
* In 2018, quota was set aside for a potential new entrant; however the quota was reallocated to the existing licences when no new entrant was confirmed.
Ocean quahog enterprise allocation % share of TAC
Licence holder Banquereau Sable Island Bank
Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership (NS) 33.3% 33.3%
Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership (NL) 33.3% 33.3%
Arctic Surfco Incorporated (Clearwater) (NL) 33.3% 33.3%
* In 2018, quota was set aside for a potential new entrant; however the quota was reallocated to the existing licences when no new entrant was confirmed.

Ocean quahog catch on the Grand Bank is limited to 10% bycatch for all licences.

The EA schedule for offshore clam may be amended from time to time by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

6.3 Exploratory fishing offshore

Subject to the requirements established via formal authorization from DFO (refer to Section 4.5), including the use of certified at-sea observers (refer to Section 7.3.2); licence holders may conduct exploratory surf clam fishing in offshore areas outside Banquereau and Grand Banks, providing this activity does not interfere with other established or developing fisheries in those areas. Closed areas and habitat sensitive areas remain closed to exploratory surveys. Formal proposals indicating intentions to conduct exploratory surveys shall be made in writing to both DFO and the OCWG for consideration. Conclusion reports from all exploratory surveys shall be forwarded to both the OCWG and DFO upon completion of such projects. The OCWG will forward recommendations to both the OCAC and DFO for consideration.

All offshore licence holders will have equal access to any new quotas established for new areas.

6.4 EA transfers

Permanent transfers of allocation from 1 offshore clam licence holder to another are subject to prior review by the OCWG and prior written approval from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Temporary transfers of allocation are permitted within a single fishing season (calendar year), subject to written request to and written approval by DFO.

Permanent transfers of allocation from an existing offshore clam licence holder to a third party are subject to prior review by the OCWG and prior written approval from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

7. Management measures for the duration of the plan

7.1 Historical TACs

The Arctic surf clam TACs for Banquereau and Grand Bank during the 1998-2010 period remained unchanged from the set levels of 24,000 t for Banquereau and 20,000 t for Grand Bank. In 2011, the TAC for Grand Bank was revised to 14,756 t following detailed scientific advice from the 2010 Grand Bank assessment. In 2018, the TAC for Banquereau was revised following advice from the 2017 Banquereau assessment.

Figure 4. For details, refer to the description that follows.

Figure 4: Historical TACs for both banks from 1987 to 2020.


Figure 4 shows the historical TAC for Banquereau Brank, Grand Bank and the total of both from 1987 to 2020.

TACs may be revised should scientific assessment of the resource indicate the need for adjustment to ensure sustainability of the resource.

The ocean quahog TACs for Sable Island Bank and Banquereau during the 2005-2011 period (listed below) are provisionally established. These TACs may be revised during the period of this plan should scientific assessment of the resource indicate the need for adjustment to ensure sustainability of the resource. Quahog catches on Grand Banks are limited to a bycatch of 10% of surf clam.

Area 2020 TAC (Live Wt.)
Sable Island Bank 11,587 t
Banquereau 800 t
Total 12,387 t

7.1.1 Conversion factors

Conversion factors are employed in the monitoring of this fishery. These are factors that are applied against the landed product weight to convert it to the original whole animal-in-shell weight. The current (1998) conversion factors for Arctic surf clam are times 6.51 (blanched product) and times 5.37 (raw product).

The 1984 Statistical Coordinating Committee for the Atlantic Coast (STACAC) conversion factor document lists shucked clams as having a conversion factor of 5.5; this applies to any clam species without a specific conversion factor of their own (DFO 1984). The shucked quahog conversion factor from the STACAC document is 6.0. Within this fishery, the 5.5 conversion factor was used of all bycatch species until August 1, 2019, at which time the 6.0 conversion factor was deemed more appropriate for shucked quahogs. At present, the generalized 5.5 conversion factor is being applied to propeller clams and Greenland cockles; however research is underway to generate specific conversion factors for these species.

After primary on-board processing, industry practice is to recover as much from the processing lines as possible to ensure good resource use. The remains become a product referred to as C-grade, which includes bits and pieces of Arctic surf clam, northern propeller clam, Greenland cockle clam and ocean quahog that would not otherwise have a conversion factor applied, nor count against the quota. These bits include parts of the adductor muscle, syphons and straps, but can include whole tongues that have not met processing specifications. Because whole tongues can make up a portion of this product, an on-board monitoring program supplies data to DFO upon which an assumption is made about which proportion of the C-grade landings should be counted against the quota. 80% of the C-grade landings are assumed to be tongues and a conversion factor of 6.51 is currently applied. This proportion will be reviewed on a 2-year basis and based on the most recent available data.

7.2 Prohibited fishing areas

Offshore surf clam vessels are prohibited at all times from fishing:



7.3 Control and monitoring of removals

7.3.1 Gear restrictions

The gear type used while fishing must be as described in the licence (hydraulic dredge).

7.3.2 At-sea observers

The requirement for certified at-sea observers in the offshore clam fishery remains at 1 observed trip per bank per year, which is approximately 10% coverage.

A higher level of coverage may be considered for exploratory trips or if concerns arise regarding bycatch or monitoring issues.

7.3.3 Dockside monitoring

100% industry-funded dockside monitoring remains an ongoing requirement.

7.3.4 Reporting requirements

Licence conditions stipulate the requirement for accurate reporting of catches through log books, daily hails, dockside monitoring and 100% VMS. Additionally, reporting is required for species at risk and marine mammal interactions. Should any fishing gear be lost, the licence holder is also required to report that incident.

7.3.5 Enforcement strategies

DFO monitors compliance with all regulatory and licence requirements through aerial surveillance, 100% VMS, patrol vessels, observer coverage, dockside checks and data audits. DFO enforcement staff monitor compliance of regulations and licence requirements and apply legal recourse if required.

All clam harvesting vessels are required to employ an operational VMS transponder in accordance with the licence conditions.

7.3.6 Bycatch provisions

Only those species permitted by licence condition may be retained. All bycatch data must be reported in logs by species and weight.

7.3.7 Transshipping

The at-sea transshipping or receiving of catches to or from other vessels is prohibited.

7.3.8 Depleted species concerns

A number of marine species are considered to be at risk within Canada. Ensuring protection and promoting recovery of at-risk species is a national priority. To this end, Canada developed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and a number of complementary programs to promote recovery and protection of species considered to be extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern under SARA or identified as such by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

SARA includes prohibitions that protect endangered, threatened and extirpated species (Section 32), their residences (Section 33) and their critical habitat (Section 58). Provided specific criteria can be met, SARA allows activities that would otherwise be prohibited to proceed through the issuance of permits or agreements under Section 73 and 74 or through exemptions under Section 83(4). The recovery of species at risk involves the development and implementation of recovery strategies, action plans or management plans and the protection of any critical habitat that has been identified as necessary for the survival or recovery of the species. For species listed as special concern, critical habitat is not identified and the Section 32 prohibitions do not apply.

The Government of Canada has listed several species on Schedule 1 of the SARA. Within the Maritimes Region, the following are SARA-listed species for which there may be offshore surf clam fishery interactions:

In accordance with Section 83(4) of SARA, surf clam licence holders are currently permitted to conduct their fishery, which may interact with the 2 wolffish species listed as threatened and the Leatherback sea turtle, under the condition that any animals incidentally captured be returned to the water in a manner that causes the least harm possible. This permission is only valid while fishing is conducted under an offshore surf clam licence issued to the licence holder under the Fisheries Act, in all authorized waters under an offshore surf clam licence. This permission is provided and described in each species’ respective recovery strategy, which may change over time. The Species at risk public registry contains up-to-date information. Mandatory prohibitions do not apply to species listed as special concern, therefore, licence holders do not need to receive SARA permits for fishery interactions with Atlantic wolffish or other special concern species. Historical observer data and SARA log reports up to December 2019 indicate that there have been no interactions with any of the above listed SARA species.

Interactions with SARA listed species must be recorded in the species at risk logbook provided by DFO or in the relevant section of the fishery monitoring document. The SARA monitoring document must be submitted to a dockside monitoring company whether or not species at risk are caught.

Should additional species be listed under SARA this IFMP recognizes there will be a need to address potential impacts to these new species. Industry will be consulted as required to develop any necessary strategies to mitigate these impacts.

Once assessed by COSEWIC, if a decision is made not to list a species under SARA, DFO is required to develop an “alternative approach” to species conservation using other legislative or non-legislative tools. If the “alternative approach” includes incremental actions, a 5-year work plan must be developed as per the Species at Risk Act Listing Policy and Directive for Do Not List Advice.

Within the authorized fishing area, the following are COSEWIC assessed species for which there have been recorded offshore surf clam fishery interactions, but for which a SARA listing decision is pending:

Species Population(s) COSEWIC status
American plaice
(Hippoglossoides platessoides)
Maritimes Threatened
Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) Southern, Laurentian South and Newfoundland and Labrador Endangered
Cusk (Brosme brosme) Atlantic Endangered
Smooth skate (Malacoraja senta) Scotian Special concern
Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) Atlantic Special concern
Thorny skate (Amblyraja radiate) Atlantic Threatened
White hake (Urophycis tenuis) Atlantic and Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence Endangered
Winter skate (Leucoraja ocellata) Eastern Scotian Shelf and Newfoundland Endangered

Visit the Species at risk public registry for further species information.

Information about assessed species can be obtained on the COSEWIC website.

7.4 Licence provisions

As per the Commercial fisheries licensing policy for Eastern Canada, all vessels used in the offshore clam fishery are to be Canadian-registered fishing vessels.

Vessels are authorized to fish more than 1 fishing area during the same trip under specific monitoring guidelines (see Section 4.6 for more information).

An annual licence fee for Arctic surf clam and ocean quahogs, as specified in the Atlantic Fishery Regulations, 1985, is payable to the Receiver General of Canada prior to licence issuance.

7.5 Ecosystem management considerations

Since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), there has been increasing international awareness of the cumulative impacts of ocean sector-based activities on marine ecosystems. The need for a more integrated approach to ocean management is increasingly being recognized.

The 1997 Oceans Act heralded a new approach to management of Canada’s marine and freshwater resources. Under the Fisheries Act, resource management has been species and population based, with the emphasis on commercially important species and fish habitat management. The Oceans Act now requires consideration of the impacts of all human activities on the respective ecosystem.

In 2002, Canada’s Oceans Strategy was published, a key element of which being a nationally co-ordinated Integrated Management (IM) program, in which interested stakeholders and regulators work together to decide how best to manage designated geographic areas of the ocean. Integrated Management is defined as a commitment to planning and managing human activities in a comprehensive manner while considering all factors necessary for the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources and the shared use of ocean spaces. Therefore, IM is the administrative vehicle whereby broader and consistent objectives shall be incorporated into the management of Canada's 3 oceans.

In 2016, the Government launched the $1.5 billion national Oceans Protection Plan, the largest investment the Government of Canada has ever made to protect our coasts and waterways. This program aims, in part, to preserve and restore marine ecosystems and invest in research that will investigate oil spill effects and appropriate containment and cleaning techniques. The 2019 updates to the Fisheries Act also provide for the restoration of protections for fish and fish habitats and the enhancement of marine protection and habitat restoration.

These 2 broad, overarching general objectives for ecosystem-based management (EBM) are accepted:

  1. the sustainability of human usage of ocean resources; and
  2. the conservation of species and habitats, including those other ecosystem components that may not be used by humans.

7.5.1 Diversity of benthic communities

Information on disturbance caused by the fishery to the benthic community has been provided by a DFO Expert Opinion in January 2003 and in the 2007 Science Advisory Report (DFO 2007), as well as other DFO publications (DFO 2017, Gilkinson 2013). The benthic community on Banquereau is a well sorted sand bottom community that appears to be resilient to the effects of the clam dredges. The target species, its habitat preference and fishing gear restrict the fishery to this community and as a consequence the impact on other benthic communities remains low.

7.5.2 Effects on coral communities

The offshore clam fishery occurs in waters shallower than those in which most coral communities are found.

While the offshore clam fishery takes place in waters shallower than those in which coral communities are normally found, fishing is prohibited through licence conditions in identified coral areas including Lophelia CCA, Division 3O Coral Closure Area and the Gully MPA.

7.5.3 High diversity benthic community in the Gully Marine Protected Area

The offshore clam fishery on Banquereau takes place in waters shallower than the Gully MPA; however, the area of interest for ocean quahog beds on Sable Island Bank occurs in close proximity to the Gully MPA. In accordance with the Gully MPA regulations, this area is closed to the offshore clam fishery.

Given the highly dynamic environment on Sable Island Bank and the distance between the quahog fisheries from the Gully MPA, suspension of sediment resulting from the quahog fishery is not expected to be measurable within the natural sediment movement variation in the area. Therefore, the quahog fishery outside the Gully is not expected to have any measurable impact on the Gully environment.

7.5.4 Overall species diversity

Bycatch mortality of other species is minimal for the offshore clam fishery and the dredge impact study (Gilkinson et al. 2003; Gilkinson et al. 2005; Gilkinson 2013) indicates that the benthic community impacted by the gear is resilient to the disturbance caused by the fishery.

7.5.5 Genetic diversity of populations under human pressure

The genetics of the surf clam populations on Banquereau and Grand Banks were examined in a study using microsatellite markers (Cassita and Hart 2007). This study found broad spatial homogeneity of allele frequencies among northwest Atlantic populations and significant spatial differentiation only on the largest geographic scale (between Atlantic and Pacific populations).

Studies of dredge tracks on Banquereau indicate that, after an area has been fished beyond commercial viability, at least 40-50% of the bottom remains un-dredged, which serves as a recruitment base during the fallow phase of the fishery (Gilkinson et al. 2003; Gilkinson et al. 2005; Gilkinson 2013).

8. Shared stewardship arrangements

Implementing a clear, consistent and stable approach to access and allocation and developing transparent decision-making processes will create appropriate conditions for the shared stewardship of fisheries resources. Also, the new policy framework for the management of fisheries on Canada's Atlantic coast, under the AFPR, enables resource users and others to play a greater role in decision making and thus to take greater responsibility for resource management decisions and their outcomes. As part of this shared stewardship, the offshore clam fleet bears the incremental costs of the following projects by:

In 2019, a 3-year collaborative agreement was signed by both DFO and Clearwater Seafoods. The intent of the collaborative agreement is to facilitate a collaborative approach in order to increase knowledge, efficiency and effectiveness in sustainable management of the offshore clam fishery. The research plan outlined by the collaborative agreement began in 2019.

Based on the 2019 collaborative agreement, the offshore clam research work plan outlines 6 areas in which work will be done to further knowledge of:

Foundational scientific work supported by industry through JPAs has been the practice in this fishery and has been a cornerstone in its early development. This includes the most recent scientific surveys carried out on Banquereau and Grand Banks. See Section 1.1.4 for more information on some previous shared stewardship arrangements.

9. Compliance plan

9.1 Conservation and Protection Program description

The management of Canadian fisheries requires an integrated approach to monitoring, control and surveillance activities that involves the deployment of fishery officers to conduct: at-sea and land patrols, dockside monitoring program (DMP) audits, as well as processing plants and harvester inspections.

Conservation and Protection (C&P) activities are designed to ensure compliance with the legislation, policies and fishing plans as they relate to conservation and the long-term sustainable use of the resource. The C&P National Compliance Framework describes a 3-pillar approach to the sustainability of the offshore clam fishery and other fisheries. The pillars are education/shared stewardship, monitoring, control and surveillance and major case management. The full framework is available upon request.

9.1.1 Regional compliance program delivery

Compliance in the offshore clam fishery is achieved through the application of the Fisheries Act, the Fishery (General) Regulations and the Atlantic Fishery Regulations.

The following offers a general description of compliance activities carried out by C&P in the offshore clam fishery.

9.1.2 Consultation

Shared stewardship and education are achieved in the offshore clam fishery through a renewed emphasis on the importance of communication with the community at large including:

9.1.3 Compliance program performance

The offshore clam fishery takes place in NAFO areas 3L, 3N, 3O, 4 Vs and 4Vw. In the Maritime Region it takes place primarily in the waters of NAFO area 4VSW. Specifically, on Banquereau Bank and Sable Island Bank. In the Newfoundland Region the Offshore clam fishery takes place in NAFO areas 3L, 3N and 3O. The number of license holders and quota limit the fishery. Additional factors that influence and control this fishery are market price and environmental conditions, such as weather.

In recent years, C&P has been building its major case management capability for all fisheries. The program is moving toward increased intelligence gathering, specialized investigations, retroactive review of suspected illegal activity and broadening the scope of its inspections to include buyers, plants and transportation. Some of this work has focused on the offshore clam fishery. A summary of officer time and inspections appears in Appendix 8.

9.1.4 Compliance issues

To remain effective in deterring non-compliance within the offshore clam fishery and all other fisheries, the efforts taken by C&P must demonstrate a high likelihood that violations (non-compliance) are being detected and that any serious violations will result in penalties being imposed. The responses to these violations can include warnings, tickets or prosecutions.

Targeted efforts will be taken to determine the level of compliance within this fishery and a level will be established to determine an acceptable compliance goal. This objective will be set by taking into consideration the availability of resources to the program.

9.1.5 Compliance strategy

Based on established regional compliance priorities, C&P detachment supervisors prepare annual work plans and allocate human, material and fiscal resources based on an assessment of compliance risks in each fishery. The following table summarizes the challenges in this fishery as well as strategies to address them.

Compliance risks Mitigating strategies

Closed area and time issues

  • Unlicensed fishing
  • Fishing in closed area/time

Catch and reporting issues

  • Fraud and collusion
  • Misreporting
  • Bypass of the DMP
  • DMP integrity
  • Unreported sales
  • Inaccurate hails
  • Improper logbook
  • Engagement with industry
  • Conduct patrols and checks using a risk assessment and available intelligence
  • Conduct routine inspections
  • Deployment of at-sea observers
  • DMP checks
  • Promote intelligence gathering, sharing and analysis
  • Use major case investigations when appropriate
  • Collaborative work with other federal, provincial and municipal agencies and departments
  • 100% VMS coverage

10. Evaluation, monitoring and plan enhancement

It is crucial to effective management that there be evaluations of the performance of IFMPs or specific elements of them, to determine whether the rules and regulations that were employed are effective and thus that the strategies in the overall plan are being adequately implemented in that fishery. The general plan evaluation will determine whether:

Long-term objectives for the IFMP center on maintaining viability of the stock and existing fleet, promoting shared stewardship and optimizing benefits for participants and local communities. Evaluation criteria include:

A major indicator will be the adherence to the measures identified in the PA that was developed for this fishery. Please see Appendix 7 for further details on the fishery-specific PA.

A fishery review will include an informal assessment internal to DFO, as well as industry consultation with the OCWG to assist in the review of the plan. Any plan enhancements will be discussed through the advisory process and may be considered for inclusion in the IFMP.

Table 2 outlines the timetable for evaluation and monitoring so as to ensure the fishery is meeting the objectives outlined in Section 4. The Plan enhancement column specifies areas of research, data limitations and policy development that may be considered in the future to make further advances and improvements to the IFMP.

Table 2. Evaluation, monitoring and plan enhancement
Issue Strategy Evaluation Monitoring Plan enhancement
What is the management issue you’re addressing? What is the strategy for managing the pressure (including specific reference points)? What is the schedule for evaluating strategies and tactics? What data will you be collecting to monitor performance of the plan? Do monitoring and data weaknesses exist?
Objective: Productivity
Do not cause unacceptable reduction in productivity so that components can play their role in the functioning of the ecosystem
Opportunity for commercial fishing over short and long terms

Keep clam fishing mortality moderate by using reference points and harvest control rules where available and/or maintaining moderate fishing effort

Review science information at Framework, Regional Advisory Process (RAP), Working Group and Advisory Committee meetings, depending on management and science requirements Abundance estimates of fishable biomass derived from commercial fishing data
Landings data from logbooks
VMS data
Biological data to assess indicator status
Determining best methods to estimate abundance on Grand Banks
Periodically review the appropriateness of secondary indicators
Objective: Biodiversity
Do not cause unacceptable reduction in biodiversity in order to preserve the structure and natural resilience of the ecosystem.
Potential for harming wolffish and other bycatch
Potential for skates and skate purses, some listed as threatened or special concern under SARA, to be harmed in dredges
Keep fishing mortality of wolffish and skates at moderate levels
Mandatory release of wolffish, skates and any other future SARA species that interacts with this fishery
Ensure adherence to existing at-sea monitoring program for bycatch monitoring
Review science information at Framework, RAP, Working Group and Advisory Committee meetings, depending on management and science requirements Catch monitoring through at-sea observers
SARA logs for wolffish and any other future SARA species that interacts with this fishery
Ensure observer protocols are up to date and consistently deployed
Objective: Habitat
Do not cause unacceptable modification to habitat in order to safeguard both physical and chemical properties of the ecosystem.
Disturbance of benthic areas due to hydraulic dredge gear
Region has a strategy to protect sensitive benthic areas under the SBA policy
Measure amount of disturbance for benthic areas Review science information at Framework, RAP, Working Group and Advisory Committee meetings, depending on management and science requirements Ongoing monitoring of fishing areas in preferred clam habitat through VMS
Measuring the footprint of the fishery for each bank annually as a secondary indicator of stock health

Identification of sensitive benthic areas is ongoing within DFO and industry will respond as new information becomes available

Objective: Culture and sustenance
Respect Aboriginal and treaty rights to fish.
Historically fished clams only nearshore Respect Aboriginal and treaty rights First Nations representation at advisory committee meetings DFO Resource Management  
Objective: Prosperity
Help create the circumstances for economically prosperous fisheries.
Provide ability to take advantage of situations to maximize profitability Limit inflexibility in policy and licensing to individual enterprises and licence holders
Minimize instability in access to resources and allocations
Provide internal mechanisms that allow self-adjustment of capacity to resource availability
Support MSC certification as an independent verification of sustainability
Review at Working Group and Advisory Committee meetings depending on management requirements
MSC certifying body evaluates annually
Qualitative and quantitative feedback from industry
Review and align on licence transfers
Provide information for annual MSC reviews
Enhancements to policy and licensing (i.e. flexibility) are ongoing and will be updated as implemented

11. Safety at sea

Vessel owners and masters have a duty to ensure the safety of their crew and vessel. Adherence to safety regulations and good practices by owners, masters and crew of fishing vessels will help save lives, protect the vessel from damage and protect the environment. All fishing vessels must be in a seaworthy condition and maintained as required by Transport Canada and other applicable agencies. Vessels subject to inspection should ensure that the certificate of inspection is valid for the area of intended operation.

In the federal government, responsibility for shipping, navigation and vessel safety regulations and inspections lies with Transport Canada; emergency response with the Canadian Coast Guard and DFO has responsibility for management of the fisheries resources while ensuring that safety at sea is considered. DFO and Transport Canada have a memorandum of understanding to formalize cooperation and to establish, maintain and promote a safe culture within the fishing industry.

Before leaving on a voyage, the owner, master or operator must ensure that the fishing vessel is capable of safely making the passage. Critical factors for a safe voyage include the seaworthiness of the vessel, vessel stability, having the required safety equipment in good working order, crew training and knowledge of current and forecasted weather conditions.

In addition, new Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations came into force in 2017.

Appendix 1: References

Cassita and Hart 2007. Spatial and temporal genetic homogeneity in the Arctic surf clam (Mactromeris polynyma). Marine Biology Vol. 152/3 p569-579.

Chaisson, D.R., and T.W. Rowell. 1985. Distribution, Abundance, Population Structure, and Meat Yield of the Ocean Quahog (Arctica islandica) and Stimpson’s Surf Clam (Spisula polynyma) on the Scotian Shelf and Georges Bank. Canadian Industry Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, No. 155, Government of Canada Fisheries and Oceans, 1985: ix and 125 p.

Chandler, R.A. 1965. Ocean quahog resources of Southwestern Northumberland Strait. Fish. Res. Board Can., MS. Rept. No. 828: 22p.

Chandler, R.A. 1983. Ocean Quahog Survey, South Shore of Nova Scotia, 1971-72, With Observations on a Preliminary Survey by SCUBA and a Commercial Fishery. Canadian Manuscript Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, No. 1726, Government of Canada Fisheries and Oceans, 1983: 28 p.

DFO. 1984. Statistical Co-ordinating Committee for the Atlantic Coast- Standard Conversion Factors: All Species. STACAC Document 2.

DFO. 1999. Banquereau Bank Arctic surf clam. DFO Sci. Stock Status Rep. C3-34 (1999).

DFO. 2007. Assessment of the Ocean Quahog (Arctica islandica) Stocks on Sable Bank and St. Mary’s Bay, and the Arctic Surf clam (Mactromeris polynyma) Stock on Banquereau. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2007/034.

DFO. 2007. Clarification on Offshore Arctic Surf clam and Ocean Quahog TAC’s. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Resp. 2007/018.

DFO. 2010. Assessment of the Arctic Surf clam (Mactromeris polynyma) Stock on Grand Bank. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2010/063

DFO. 2017. Assessment of the Arctic Surf clam (Mactromeris polynyma) Stock of Banquereau for 2016. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2017/047.

Duggan, R.E. 1996. Scotian Shelf Ocean Quahog. DFO Atlantic Fisheries Stock Status Report, Maritimes Region: 2p.

Duggan, R., E. Kenchington, S. Smith, and J.T. McLean. 1998. Preliminary stock survey of the Ocean Quahog (Arctica islandica) in St. Mary’s Bay, Nova Scotia. Can Stock Assess. Sec. Res. Doc. 98/54 18p.

Gilkinson, K.D., D.C. Gordon Jr., G.B. Fader, D.L. McKeown, E.L.R Kenchington, D. Roddick, C. Bourbonnais, K.D. MacIsaac, R. Charron, M. Lamplugh and W.P. Vass. 2002. Banquereau Hydraulic Clam Dredging Experiment 1998-2000. Interim Summary Report, March 2002. DFO Maritimes Region. 48 p.

Gilkinson, K.D., G.B.J. Fader, D.C. Gordon, Jr., R. Charron, D. McKeown, D. Roddick, E.L.R. Kenchington, K. MacIsaac, C. Bourbonnais, P. Vass and Q. Liu. 2003. Immediate and longer-term impacts of hydraulic clam dredging on an offshore sandy seabed: effects on physical habitat and processes of recovery. Continental Shelf Research. 23:1315-1336.

Gilkinson, K.D., G.B.J. Fader, D.C. Gordon, Jr., R. Charron, D. McKeown, D. Roddick, E.L.R. Kenchington, K. MacIsaac, C. Bourbonnais, W. P. Vass and Q. Liu. 2005. Immediate and longer-term impacts of hydraulic clam dredging on an offshore sandy seabed: effects on physical habitat and processes of recovery. Continental Shelf Research. 23:1315-1336.

Gilkinson, K.D. 2013. Recent DFO (Newfoundland & Labrador Region) studies of the Grand Banks benthos at small and large spatial scales. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2012/114. v + 30 p

Kilada, R. W., Campana S. E., and Roddick, D. 2007. Validated age, growth, and mortality estimates of the ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) in the western Atlantic. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 64: 31–38.

Kilada, R. W., Roddick, D, and Mombourquette, K. 2007. Age determination, validation, growth and minimum size of sexual maturity of the Greenland smoothcockle (Serripes groenlandicus, Brugiere, 1789) in eastern Canada. J. Shellfish Res. 26: 443-450.

Kilada, R. W., Campana S. E, and Roddick, D. 2009. Growth and sexual maturity of the northern propellerclam (Cyrtodaria siliqua) in Eastern Canada, with bomb radiocarbon age validation. Marine Biology 156:1029–1037.

Medcof, J.C. 1957. Search for ocean quahogs in Port Medway Harbour. N.S. Fish. Res. Board Can., MS Rept. No. 1002: 7p.

Medcof, J.C., D.F. Alexander, and R.A. Chandler. 1971. Promising places to look for ocean quahogs and bar clams, and trial fishing with a rocker dredge off Richibucto, N.B. and Clark’s Harbour, N.S. Fish Res. Board Can., MS Rept. No. 1068: 38 p.

Medcof, J.C. and J.F. Caddy. 1974. Underwater observations on performance of clam dredges of three types. Fish. Res. Board Can. Ms. Rept. 1313: 9p.

Meyer, T.L., R.A. Cooper and K.J. Pecci. 1981. The performance and environmental effects of a hydraulic clam dredge. Marine Fisheries Review. 43: 14-22.

Murawski, S.A., J.W. Ropes, and F.M. Serchuk. 1980. Growth studies of the Ocean quahog, Arctica islandica. ICES CM, 1980/ K:38, 24 p.

Murawski, S.A. and F.M. Serchuk. 1979. Mechanized Shell Length- meat weight relationships of Ocean Quahogs, Arctica islandica, from the Middle Atlantic Shelf. Proc. Natl. Shellfish. Ass. 69: 40-46.

Murawski, S.A. and F.M. Serchuk. 1989. Mechanized Shellfish Harvesting and its Management : The Offshore Clam Fishery of the Eastern United States. In : Caddy, J.F. (Ed) marine Invertebrate Fisheries : Their Assessment and Management. Wiley, New York, pp. 479-506.

NEFSC [Northeast Fisheries Science Center]. 2000. [Report of the] 31st Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Workshop (31st SAW), Stock Assessment Review Committee (SARC) consensus summary of assessments. Northeast Fish. Sci. Cent. Ref. Doc. 00-15. 400 p.

O’Boyle, R. (Chair). Expert Opinion On Clearwater / Deep Sea Clam Ocean Quahog Development Proposal. DFO Maritimes Region, September 26, 2002.

O’Boyle, R. (Chair). Expert Opinion On The Rationale For Harvest Advice On Ocean Quahogs (Arctica islandica). DFO Maritimes Region, March, 2005

Roddick, D. 1996a. The Arctic surf clam fishery on Banquereau Bank. DFO Atlantic Fisheries Research Document 96/36, 17pp.

Roddick, D. 1996b. A Preliminary look at Conversion Factors for the Offshore Clam Fishery. DFO Atlantic Fisheries Research Document 96/37, 6pp.

Roddick, D. and S. Smith. 1999. Assessment of the Banquereau Bank Arctic surf clam. DFO Can. Stock Assess. Secret. Res. Doc. 99/69.

Roddick, D.L., and D. Lemon. 1992. Exploratory Survey for Small Arctic Surf clam on the Eastern Scotian Shelf. Canadian Industry Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, No. 215, Government of Canada Fisheries and Oceans, 1992: 33 p.

Roddick, D.L. 2005. The Scotian Shelf experience with emerging bivalve fisheries. p 305-321. In G.H. Kruse, V.F. Gallucci, D.E. Hay, R.I. Perry, R.M. Peterman, T.C. Shirley, P.D. Spencer, B. Wilson, and D. Woodby [Eds.] Fisheries assessment and management in data-limited situations. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks. 958 pp.

Roddick, D., R. Kilada, and K. Mombourquette. 2007a. Survey for Arctic Surf clam (Mactromeris polynyma) on Banquereau, 2004. DFO Can. Sci. Adv. Sec. Res. Doc. 2007/035, 39p.

Roddick, D., R. Kilada, and K. Mombourquette. 2007b. Ocean Quahog (Arctica islandica) Survey and Yield Estimates for Sable Bank. DFO Can. Sci. Adv. Sec. Res. Doc. 2007/036.

Roddick, D., K. Mombourquette, and R. Kilada. 2007. Survey for Ocean Quahogs (Arctica islandica) at the Mouth of St. Mary’s Bay, Nova Scotia. DFO Can. Sci. Adv. Sec. Res. Doc. 2007/037.

Ropes, J.W., S.A. Murawski, and F.M. Serchuk. 1984. Size, age, sexual maturity, and sex ratio in ocean quahogs, Arctica islandica Linné, off Long Island, New York. Fish. Bull. 82(2): 253-267.

Rowell, T.W., and D. R. Chaisson. 1983. Distribution and abundance of the ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) and Stimpson’s Surf Clam (Spisula polynyma) resource on the Scotian Shelf. Can. Ind. Rept. Fish. And Aquat. Sci. No. 142: 69 p.

Rowell, T.W., D.R. Chaisson, and J.T. McLane. 1990. Size and age of sexual maturity and annual gametogenic cycle in the ocean quahog, Arctica islandica (Linnaeus, 1767), from coastal waters in Nova Scotia, Canada. J. Shellfish Research. 9(1): 195-203.

Serchuk, F.M., and S.A. Murawski. 1980. Evaluation and Status of Ocean Quahog, Arctica islandica (Linnaeus) off the Middle Atlantic Coast of the United States. Woods Hole Laboratory Reference Document 80:32. United States Fish and Wildlife Service: 7p.

Steingrimsson, S.A., and G.G. Thorarinsdottir. 1995. Age structure, growth and size at sexual maturity in Ocean quahog, Arctica islandica, (Mollusca: Bivalvia), off NW-Iceland. ICES CM, 1995/ K:54, 16 p.

Thorarinsdottir, G.G. and S.T. Einarsson. 1994. Distribution, abundance, population structure, meat yield, size of sexual maturity and sex ratio of Ocean quahog, Arctica islandica, in Icelandic waters. ICES CM, 1994 / K:39, 8 p. and figures.

Thorarinsdottir, G.G. and S.A. Ragnarsson. 2001. Assessment of density and biomass of Ocean quahog, Arctica islandica, using a hydraulic dredge and underwater photography. ICES CM, 2001 / P:24, 7 p. and figures.

Thorarinsdóttir, G.G., and S.A. Steingrímsson. 2000. Size and age at sexual maturity and sex ratio in ocean quahog, Arctica islandica (Linnaeus, 1767), off Northwest Iceland. J. Shellfish Research Vol. 19, No. 2, 943-947.

Appendix 2: Offshore Clam Advisory Committee terms of reference


The Offshore Clam Advisory Committee (OCAC) provides input and advice to DFO on the conservation, protection and management of the offshore clam resource on Canada's Atlantic Coast. The committee will continue to serve as an open and public consultative forum on all issues affecting the offshore clam fishery.



Any changes to the structure and administration of the committee will be decided by the committee membership.


Ad hoc subcommittees/working groups can be established to review and assess specific policy options and management measures.


The committee will meet at least once a year or as otherwise called by the chair. Meetings will be held in either Nova Scotia or Newfoundland.


Non-DFO members do not receive funding from DFO for expenses incurred when attending meetings.

Voting procedures

No formal voting procedures will be established. The committee will seek to operate on a consensus basis.

Minutes of meetings

Minutes of the committee's meetings will be prepared and distributed by DFO.

Public access

Advisory committee meetings will be open to observers unless otherwise specified. Any representation(s) from observers to the committee shall be at the invitation of the chair only.

DFO working groups

The committee will be supported by a working group or groups of DFO officials who will consolidate scientific, economic and management advice into draft fishing plans for the committee's consideration.


If a member cannot attend, an alternate may be nominated and the chairman must be notified as far in advance of the meeting date as possible.


Chairperson - The Committee will be chaired by a DFO official. An industry co-chair may be appointed at the discretion of committee members.

Members - The composition of the committee membership will reflect the structure and nature of the offshore clam fishery. Membership on the committee shall be made up of the licence holders and related industry sectors that have a major involvement in the harvesting, processing and marketing of the resource, as well as representatives of government or provinces with significant shore-based infrastructure (i.e., Nova Scotia and Newfoundland) and DFO. In addition, First Nations representatives will be advised of committee meetings for discretionary participation. Membership on this committee reflects the inter-regional nature of the fishery, in terms of the department’s management regions.

Offshore Clam Advisory Committee members
Organization Address
(Chair is to rotate between Maritimes Region and Newfoundland and Labrador Region)
DFO, Maritimes Region Dartmouth
DFO, Newfoundland and Labrador Region St. John's
Licence holders
Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership Ltd. Halifax
Provincial government
NS Dept. of Fisheries & Aquaculture Halifax
Nfld. Dept. of Fisheries St. John's
Federal government (DFO)
Resource Management, Maritimes Region Dartmouth
Economics, Maritimes Region Dartmouth
C&P, Maritimes Region Dartmouth
Oceans and Habitat Dartmouth
Science, Maritimes Region Dartmouth
Resource Management, Nfld. Region St. John's
First Nations
Representatives - Notification of OCAC meetings  

Appendix 3: Offshore Clam Working Group terms of reference


The Offshore Clam Working Group (OCWG) will oversee and direct the implementation of the management plan.

Functions and responsibilities

The OCWG will:


The working group shall meet at least once a year and may meet as often as it deems fit.


Ad hoc subcommittees/working groups can be established to review and assess specific issues and management measures.

Minutes of meetings

Preparation and distribution of the minutes of the working group's meetings to be the responsibility of the working group chairperson.


Members are responsible for their own expenses.


If a member is unable to attend, an alternate may be chosen. The chair should be notified by that member as far in advance of the meeting date as possible.


The composition of the working group's membership is:


All meetings of the committee shall require a quorum consisting of 1 representative from each offshore licence and at least 1 DFO representative to be considered a duly convened meeting.

Appendix 4: Offshore surf clam commercial fishing banks (Newfoundland and Labrador and Maritimes regions)

For details, refer to the description that follows.

Map of the offshore surf clam commercial fishing banks for the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador regions. The Banquereau Fishing Area, and the Grand Bank Fishing Area (NAFO 3LNO) are shown.

For details, refer to the description that follows.

Map showing the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, comprised of Grand Bank, Whale Bank, Green Bank, and St. Pierre Bank.

Grand Banks of Newfoundland are located south and east of the island of Newfoundland. They are comprised of a grouping of submerged banks including the Grand Bank, Whale Bank, Green Bank and St. Pierre Bank. Most of the bank areas are found at depths up to 200 m with the majority of area between 51 - 100 m. The continental slope is quite steep along the southern and eastern portions of the banks and depths reach to beyond 1000 m over a relatively short distance. The slope to the north, northeast and west (of St. Pierre Bank) is much more gradual. The Grand Bank is deeply incised with submarine canyons along the southern and southeast areas and the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks lie beyond the Canadian 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

Appendix 5: Ocean quahog fishing areas

For details, refer to the description that follows.

Map showing ocean quahog fishing areas, Western Bank, Sable Bank, and Banquereau Bank.

For details, refer to the description that follows.

Map of the 2003 Sable Quahog survey results, showing density of ocean quahogs in kg/1000 m².

Appendix 6: Offshore clam fishery chronology

1980-83 DFO conducts scientifically monitored Developmental Charter on Banquereau.
1984-85 Attempts made to develop surf clam fishery out of Lockeport, NS (C. Widrig, D. Williams and R. Baker).
1986 Industry test fishery by Pursuit, Nova Scotia (NS) Clam and Mother Snow's (MS).
Pursuit and NS Clam Co. are awarded 2 licences on Banquereau with 15,000 t EA of Arctic surf clam.
MS awarded licence for 1 year to fish experimentally outside Banquereau with a 5,000 t EA of Arctic surf clam
1987 Beginning of 3 year EA plan. Pursuit joined Clearwater, operates 1 Charter vessel for 9 months (the Legend).
NS Clam purchases shell stock from Clearwater and sells some product.
MS enters joint venture with National Sea Products (NSP) and experimentally fishes in: 4Vn, 4WX & 5Z and 3LNO
MS/NSP request access to Banquereau on equal basis with Clearwater and NS Clam Co.
Japanese Clam market is opened to Arctic surf clam.
MS/NSP appeal for licence to fish on Grand Banks
1988 Interest created by NSP/MS sparks request by Clearwater to experiment in 3LNO.
The Steven S, a traditional USA clam vessel, commenced fishing for Pursuit/ Clearwater.
Commercial quantities of surf clam discovered in 3LNO.
Atlantic Surf Clam Co. received approval on Grand Banks (3LNO) for 1989 but no access to Banquereau.
Clearwater/Pursuit begin fishing with its first Canadianized vessel Atlantic Vigour in July followed by the Atlantic Pursuit in November.
NS Clam Co. request to fish 3LNO outstanding. Uses Steven S to fish on Banquereau. NSP/MS requested 2 licences; partially answered/1 licence awarded for Scotian Shelf (eg. Banquereau).
Clearwater purchases Alder Point plant to process clams.
1989 3 year EA trial ends.
Atlantic Surf Clam Co. and MS/NSP issued exploratory licences for Eastern Grand Bank.
Over supply forces Clearwater to tie-up Atlantic Vigour.
Atlantic Surf Clam Co. permitted to use the vessel, Concordia and begins processing surf clam at Holyrood, Nfld
1991 1990-1994 Management plan + EA Program approved. Quotas on all banks shared equally among the 4 licence holders - Atlantic Surf Co.; Deep Sea Clam Co.; Pursuit Fisheries [Clearwater] and NS Clam Co.
Clearwater purchases Atlantic Surf Co. licence to be used to supply Grand Banks plant. This licence is fished under Arctic Surf Co.
NS Clam Co. stops fishing due to financial problems.
1992 NS Clam Co. goes out of business.
This leaves 3 licences in the fishery , held by the following 2 participants:
Clearwater Fine Foods Ltd. and Seabay Clam Co.
1993 Joint Industry/Government generic promotion program approved.
Promotional program launched in March.
NSP begins processing surf clam at Arnold's Cove, Nfld.
Clearwater begins onshore production at Grand Bank, Nfld
1994 DFO/Industry agrees on joint, 3 year survey of the Arctic surf clam resource.
Seabay Clam Co. acquires licence independent of NSP to fish Grand Banks.
1995 Minister approves 3 year of the management plan with EA program 1995-1997.
1996 Surf clam sales in Japan plummet as result of E. coli outbreak [unrelated to seafood]. Entire fleet ties up for extended period in October.
1998 A 5-year management plan (1998 – 2002) approved. In addition, cooperative scientific studies were conducted.
An economic analysis of the Arctic surf clam fishery was completed.
2001 Clearwater applies for access to ocean quahog resources
2002 DFO completed an Expert Opinion on “Clearwater/Deep Sea Clam Ocean Quahog Development Proposal”.
DFO completed a report on “Habitat Assessment – Proposed Ocean Quahog Fishery”.
2003 Clearwater provided an Experimental Licence for 11,587 tonnes of ocean quahogs.
Multi-year clam JPA signed.
Clearwater and DFO begin scientific work on ocean quahog assessment as per JPA. A survey is conducted on Sable Island Bank.
2004 Joint Clearwater contracts for the construction of a new clam vessel and the installation of a new shucking system on the Ocean Concord.
Clearwater and /DFO conduct a survey of Banquereau.
2005 Minister approves a 5-year rolling or evergreen IFMP.
2006 The first phase of a 3-year survey of Grand Banks is undertaken and completed.
2007 Scientific survey season was lost due to inaccessibility of research vessel.
2008 The second phase of a 3-year survey of Grand Banks is undertaken and completed.
2009 The third phase of a 3-year survey of Grand Banks is undertaken and completed.
2010 Assessment of the Arctic surf clam stock on Grand Bank, Clearwater and DFO conduct survey of Banquereau.
2011 Technical update of IFMP, which reflects the 2010 Grand Bank assessment and revised TAC for that area
Assessment of Banquereau Arctic surf clam stock.
2013 DFO develops reference points for the Banquereau and Grand Bank Arctic surf clam stocks.
2014 DFO initiates external science and management reviews of the offshore clam fishery.
2015 The external science review is completed by JM Hoenig and the management review is completed by JM Orensanz.
2016 Assessment of the Arctic surf clam stock on Banquereau.
2018 Clearwater signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DFO to indicate their support for furthering science in the fishery. This is a precursor to a Collaborative Agreement between the 2 parties.
2019 Clearwater and DFO sign a 3-year Collaborative Agreement and related science projects for the fishery begin to be undertaken.

Appendix 7: PA framework - Offshore surf clam

In the context of fisheries management, the PA is about being cautious when scientific information is uncertain, unreliable or inadequate and not using the absence of adequate scientific information as a reason to postpone or fail to take action to avoid serious harm to the resource. The framework applies where decisions on harvest strategies or harvest rates for a stock must be taken to determine measures for controlling harvests. The framework outlines a process to establish stock specific reference points and stock status zones (Healthy, Cautious and Critical), as well as harvest strategies and harvest decision rules based on where a stock is in relation to these reference points/zones.

Upper¹ and Limit reference points for the Grand Bank Arctic surf clam fishery have been scientifically reviewed and established as a formal component of the IFMP. The reference points were established based on a BMSY proxy of 703,065 mt for Grand Bank. The BMSY proxy was determined using fishable biomass per recruit and estimated average annual recruitment. Reference points for this fishery were established using the default 80% and 40% of the BMSY proxy for the stock resulting in an LRP of 281,226 mt and a USR of 562,452 mt.

For Banquereau, the model approach to the assessment allowed for the estimation of MSY-based reference points for each assessment area and the whole fished-area of the Bank (DFO 2017). The assessment areas were developed, in part, because of an external review of the fishery that was performed in 2015; this review suggested that spatial assessment of the fishery would be valuable. The biological reference points BMSY and FMSY were used to calculate the default 0.8 and 0.4 BMSY normally used to define the limit reference point and upper stock reference. Additionally, a reference called CPUE70 was developed based on a previously established secondary indicator, by adjusting how 70 g/m² would translate into modeled biomass estimates for each area.

1 59,339 18,195 36,389 45,487
2 92,619 28,377 56,753 70,942
3 86,514 26,513 53,026 66,283
4 39,479 12,101 24,202 30,252
5 38,226 11,720 23,441 29,301
Total bank fished area 316,178 96,906 193,812 242,265
Map of the Banquereau, showing the 5 spatial assessment areas used in the assessment.
The 5 spatial assessment areas on Banquereau used in the assessment.

Map of the Banquereau, showing the 5 spatial assessment areas used in the assessment.

FMSY for Banquereau is estimated to be near 0.09. Recent analysis suggests that catch rates decline when F is greater than 0.05. Previously the upper removal reference for the fishery was 0.33M (0.0264), a value which was developed for a larger less productive stock area (i.e., the entire bank and not the fished area). Recent assessments suggested an intermediate removal reference level of 0.5 FMSY (0.045).

Harvest Control Rules

Above the Upper Reference Point (URP):

Between the Limit Reference Point (LPR) and the Upper Reference Point (URP):

Below the Limit Reference Point (LRP):


A multi-year approach to fisheries management has been applied to the offshore surf clam resource.

Surf clam is assessed on a multi-year assessment schedule, with Science updates produced in interim years for both banks. Secondary indicators with threshold levels have been developed for both banks and the stock status for Grand Bank is assessed annually against the secondary indicators. The stock status for Banquereau is assessed annually against established reference points.


These 3 indicators have been established to monitor changes to the stock between surveys:
  Trigger level - Banquereau Trigger level - Grand Bank
1. CPUE 70g/m² 50g/m²
2. Spatial extent 253 km² 128 km²
3. Size composition <1% of catch >120 mm <0.5% of catch >105 mm

These trigger levels are set at levels previously observed and represent a stock status that did not require management intervention for growth in the stock. These trigger levels represent a stock status that remains in the healthy zone. The trigger levels serve as an early warning of changes in the stock that warrant a closer examination of the data. Such examination will be used to determine whether a survey, formal stock assessment and/or some other management actions are required. The trigger levels will be a primary determinant of adjustments to the multiyear assessment schedule for Grand Bank.

The URP is the lowest level at which the stock is considered healthy. Above this point, there is no requirement to take action to increase stock abundance, although in practice there may be several reasons for which the fishery prefers to operate with a biomass above this point. The term URP is used in the DFO PA framework and is equivalent to the Target Reference Point in the MSC’s fisheries assessment guidelines.

Appendix 8: C&P statistical summary

Total hours dedicated to offshore clam and other clam (feats and SIS3 combined) Newfoundland and Labrador and Maritimes regions combined
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
30.23 112.21 15.27 96.04 37.25
Number of checks (Maritimes Region)
Year 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Vessels 46 18 38 7 0
Persons 0 4 0 0 0
Site checks 0 2 0 0 0
Number of checks (Newfoundland and Labrador Region)
Year 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Vessels 0 1 0 3 3
Persons 0 0 0 0 0
Site checks 0 0 0 0 0

¹ Exports of clam from Newfoundland and Labrador, NS, NB, PEI and Quebec

² Data source: DFO Economic Analysis and Statistics

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