Clam Hunters' New Tool Might Work Too Well

California cracks down on hydraulic pumps
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2021 10:45 AM CDT
New Tool for Clam Hunters Might Be Too Effective
Hydraulic pumps make it easy (maybe too easy) to collect clams.   (AP Photo/Patrick Whittle)

Wildlife officials in California have no problem with people finding clams for dinner the old-fashioned way along the coast—with a shovel and bucket. But the Guardian reports they've put a temporary halt on a newfangled device that makes it incredibly easy to catch the day's legal limit in a matter of minutes: hydraulic pumps. The contraptions became especially popular during the pandemic as people sought outdoor activities. Two years ago, maybe 1 in 50 groups out clamming had such a pump, estimates Sonke Mastrup of the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife. Today, Mastrup figures 80% of clammers use them—at least until last month, when the state issued a moratorium to better understand the impact they might have on clam stocks.

"If you were digging, it takes a few minutes to pop out a clam, but it takes only 10 to 15 seconds with the pump," says Mastrup. "The clams come out beautiful, with no shovel cuts," he adds. "As a clammer I'm jealous, but as a resource manager, it might be too good." The Press Democrat explains that the pumps "use pressurized water to liquefy several feet of sand and mud under which tasty gaper and Washington clams lie buried." Then it's just a matter of scooping up the exposed clams. The state limit is 10 clams per day, and citations were up over the past year for people exceeding the limit. Authorities are worried the clam population will be decimated without time to recover, and they've declared the pumps off-limits until they can better assess the matter. (Read more clams stories.)

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