The Chemical Dilemma

Clams and their Chemical Dilemma

GSB Brown tide

Steve Kuhn has been digging for clams in the Great South Bay for over 40 years. Clamming has been Kuhn’s livelihood since the late 1960s, helping him provide a home for his family and a college education for his two sons.

Today, clams no longer thrive in the bay as they did decades ago. With the lack of clams available, Kuhn, much like thousands of other clam diggers, had to find additional work.

“As the clams dwindled, so did the clammers,” said the 66-year-old Sayville resident. “There’s not very many people left on the bay clamming anymore.”

Excessive clam dredging severely decreased clam reproduction between 1977 and 1986, according to statistics from the Hard Clam Restoration Working Group. The Working Group is a Suffolk County governmental body established in 2008 to address the problems of the clam population of the south shore.

Many of the issues that once affected the clams are no longer pertinent. Very few clammers still dig for profit on the bay and pollution control has significantly improved through efforts of the public as well as ocean water exchange through breaches in Fire Island, according to the Nature Conservancy.

Despite conditions seeming to be in favor of clam growth, there has been very little rise in the population. Aside from intermittent years of growth, the clam population remains starkly low.