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Shellfish Transplant Hailed a Success, Clams are Doing Well and Reproducing

Clam numbers doubled at chosen sanctuaries within Quonochontaug and Ninigret Ponds.


Charlestown, RI | November 15, 2009

The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island announced today that it’s two year-long transplant of nearly 80,000 pounds of shellfish (approx. 400,000 individual clams) into sanctuaries in Quonochontaug and Ninigret ponds was a success. Through a partnership with several groups and agencies, the transplanting effort doubled the total number of clams in the sanctuaries.The transplant restoration project was done as part of the national partnership between the NOAA Community-based Restoration Program and The Nature Conservancy, and also included the R.I. Department of Environmental Management, Save the Bay, the Salt Ponds Coalition, and Dr. Marta Gomez-Chiarri from the University of Rhode Island.

The announcement was made upon the conclusion of a summer-long monitoring initiative by the Conservancy, which looked at the overall population of the clams as well as the health of the individual clams. “We found that 80% of the 400,000 clams we transplanted into the ponds survived and prospered,” said Jules Opton-Himmel, the Conservancy scientist who directed the monitoring. “The clams are healthy, growing, and spawning.”

The Conservancy’s research showed that more work needs to be done next year however, especially in Ninigret Pond. Only 1.5 clams per square meter are growing in the Ninigret sanctuary, compared to 29.5 clams per square meter in Quonochontaug. More transplants are needed to fully restore and restock Ninigret Pond.

Opton-Himmel also praised the partnership that made the transplants go smoothlyand isnow growing totackle new environmental challenges together. “The transplants went off without a hitch- an impressive logistical feat to purchase clams from diggers in East Greenwich, transport to salt ponds on a flat-bed truck, and organize volunteers to plant in the spawner sanctuaries.” A total of 117 volunteers donated over 428 hours during the two year project. “Without the help of the Salt Ponds Coalition, the Department of Environmental Management, Save the Bay, and of course our funders at NOAA, these transplants never could have happened.” NOAA and TNC provided over $143,000 towards the project.

He added that the partnership is now tackling new environmental challenges in the ponds, like water quality and clarity. Excessive nutrients from land are believed to be degrading the ponds. The Conservancy and its partners are looking into ways to correct this through better lawn and waste management and possibly through better management of the pond breach ways.


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org

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Kevin Essington
401-331-7110, x24

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