A Resource to Protect: The Consumer
Because clams use siphons to take in food and oxygen from their environment, they also take in any surrounding toxins or pollutants. When such conditions occur, measures are taken to ensure that no contaminated clams enter the market for human consumption. The same actions are taken when rainfall threatens to wash pollutants into waters where clams are harvested.
“Even though Paralytic Shellfish Poison has been highly publicized since 1972, the general public still doesn’t understand much about it. Paralytic Shellfish Poison, broadly referred to as Red Tide, is a live micro-organism swimming in the water. One of thousands of individual and identifiable species. When around in large numbers, clams suck them in in their quest for feed."- Franklyn Goucher
"Closures of the flats are specific to location, but they are also species-specific. Certain species tend to siphon much more quickly. So they’re sampled regularly by Division of Marine Fisheries on a weekly basis beginning in April, all the way through November. And when Division of Marine Fisheries see signs of red tide, they tend to sample more frequently. When the counts get up close to the action level, which is eighty parts per million, then they’ll start sampling soft-shell clams as well. And if it shows that they are spiking, combined with other information, if it seems like we are in immediate threat for a red tide outbreak, things will be shut down. The modern day for red tide sampling goes back to 1972 here in Massachusetts, where we had an outbreak that was unprecedented before and since. People did get red tide at that time, and were hospitalized in Massachusetts. You know, so it’s something to be very concerned about." - Dave Sargent