Clam, Razor, clams

Ensis spp.

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Dredge
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Scotland
Stock detail — All Areas
Picture of Clam, Razor, clams

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

Updated: November 2019.

The stock status of razor clams in Scotland is unknown, but there are concerns that the stocks may be too low and fishing pressure may be too high.

In Scotland, there is currently a trial for electrical fishing of razor clams. For the lifetime of this trial (from 1st February 2018 onwards), all other forms of razor clam fishing are prohibited except for traditional hand gathering from the shore. Therefore the Scottish dredge fishery is currently illegal and is red-rated by default.

The electrofishing trial was introduced to tackle widespread illegal electrical fishing for razor clams, which was difficult to catch ‘in the act’ and therefore not well policed prior to the trial. At its peak, the criminal fishery was believed to be making upwards of 65,000 pounds a day - more lucrative than the illegal drugs trade. However, there are widespread concerns about the approach to the trial, as it is not considered to be scientific. It therefore also receives a default red-rating, in-line with MCS’s approach to electrical fishing and pulse trawling.

Hand gatherers may take up to 30 clams per day. As this level of hand gathering is unlikely to sustain a large commercial fishery, and given the historical high levels of illegal razor clam fishing, MCS urges buyers to carefully check the sources of their razor clams.

Biology

Razor clams are bivalve molluscs. There are 6 species found in British intertidal waters. 2 are of commercial importance: Ensis siliqua and E arcuatus. Spawning occurs in summer, and fertilised eggs develop into mobile larvae hours after fertilisation. The larval phase includes several stages and lasts for about 3-4 weeks, during which time they drift with the current. They then settle, attaching themselves to sand or shell by byssal threads. At around 0.5cm length juveniles burrow into sand. Relative to other commercially important bivalves, Ensis are long-lived, slow growing, and attain sexual maturity late in life. They may survive to 10-15 years and an average adult can reach a size of 12.5cm, although growth will cease by age 10. They can live in excess of 20 years. E. arcuatus reaches sexual maturity between 73 and 130 mm and E. siliqua mature between 118 - 140 mm in Scotland. They are filter feeders and normally lie vertically in the sediment with 2 small siphons, through which they feed, visible on the surface. Razor clams burrow into the sediment around the extreme low water mark and in the shallow subtidal and are capable of rapid burrowing if disturbed.

Stock information

Stock Area

Scotland

Stock information

In Scotland, there is currently a trial for electrical fishing of razor clams. For the lifetime of this trial (from 1st February 2018 onwards), all other forms of razor clam fishing are prohibited except for traditional hand gathering from the shore. Therefore the Scottish dredge fishery is currently illegal and is red-rated by default.

Management

In Scotland, there is currently a trial for electrical fishing of razor clams. For the lifetime of this trial (from 1st February 2018 onwards), all other forms of razor clam fishing are prohibited except for traditional hand gathering from the shore. Therefore the Scottish dredge fishery is currently illegal and is red-rated by default.

Capture Information

Criterion score: Critical Fail info

In Scotland, there is currently a trial for electrical fishing of razor clams. For the lifetime of this trial (from 1st February 2018 onwards), all other forms of razor clam fishing are prohibited except for traditional hand gathering from the shore. Therefore the Scottish dredge fishery is currently illegal and is red-rated by default.

References

Marine Scotland Compliance Team Pers. Comm. 2016

North Atlantic Fisheries Intelligence Group. 2017. Illegal trading Scottish Razor Clams. Available at: https://fishcrime.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Nick-Branigan.pdf

Marine Scotland. The Razor clams (PROHIBITION ON FISHING AND LANDING) (SCOTLAND) ORDER 2017. 2017. SSI 2017/419. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2017/419/pdfs/ssipn_20170419_en.pdf

Marine Scotland. 2017. Final Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2017/419/pdfs/ssifia_20170419_en.pdf

Fishing News. 2017. LECTROFISHING RAZOR CLAM TRIALS IN SCOTLAND. 10.04. 2017. Available at: http://fishingnews.co.uk/news/electrofishing-razor-clam-trials-in-scotland/

Seafood Source. 2015. Illegal razor clam fishers caught in the act. 21.09.2015. Available at: https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/food-safety-health/illegal-razor-clam-fishers-caught-in-the-act

BBC. 2017. Illegal clam fishermen 'track' fishery protection vessels. 18.04.2017. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39623279

Appleby, T. and Harrison, J. (2017) Brexit and the future of Scottish fisheries key legal issues in a changing regulatory landscape. Journal of Water Law, 25 (3). pp. 124-132. ISSN 1478-5277 Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/32821

Fox, C. 2017. To Develop the Methodology to Undertake Stock Assessments on Razor Fish Using Combinations of Video Monitoring and Electrofishing Gear. Fishing Industry Science Alliance (FISA) Project 09/15. Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science 8, 6. Marine Scotland Science, Aberdeen.

Murray F, Copland P, Boulcott P, Rovertson M, Bailey N. 2014. Electrofishing for razor clams (Ensis siliqua and E. arquatus): Effects on survival and recovery of target and non-target species. Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science 14, Marine Scotland Science, Aberdeen, 50 pp.

Fox, C. 2018. Report on Razor Clam Surveys in the Sound of Harris and the Ayrshire Coast of the Clyde (Girvan to North Bay) Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 9 No 3.

Constantino, R., Gaspar, M. B., Pereira, F., Carvalho, S., Cardia, J., Matias, D. and Monteiro, C. C. (2009), Environmental impact of razor clam harvesting using salt in Ria Formosa lagoon (Southern Portugal) and subsequent recovery of associated benthic communities. Aquatic Conserv: Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst., 19: 542-553. doi:10.1002/aqc.995.

Palomares, M.L.D. and Pauly, D. (Editors), 2019. SeaLifeBase. Ensis magnus: arched razor shell. Available at https://www.sealifebase.ca/summary/Ensis-magnus.html [Accessed on 07.11.2-19].

Palomares, M.L.D. and Pauly, D. (Editors), 2019. SeaLifeBase. Ensis siliqua: sword razor shell. Available at https://www.sealifebase.ca/summary/Ensis-siliqua.html [Accessed on 07.11.2-19].

Scottish Environment Link, 2016. Consultation Response to electrofishing for razor clams in Scotland by the Scottish Environment LINK Marine Group: September 2016. Available at http://www.scotlink.org/wp/files/documents/SEL_response_to_Electrofishing_Sept2016_Final.pdf [Accessed on 07.11.2019].

Scottish Government, 2019. Electrofishing for Razor Clams. Available at https://www2.gov.scot/Topics/marine/Sea-Fisheries/management/razors [Accessed on 07.11.2019].