Money Watchers: Shellfish management

Shellfish have supported Rhode Islanders since before the state was founded. But there's never been a plan to manage one of the state's trademark resources.

Within a year, that could change.

Countless times, Jody King hauled up his bull rake, looking for quahogs that he'll sell for less than a quarter apiece.

Monday was different. In the boat with him were Gov. Lincoln Chafee and assorted officials, all to highlight their cooperation of managing the state's shellfish resource.

"I've been doing this for over 20 years ... I've made a very, very good living," King said.

Except more and more, quahoggers are concerned that shellfish farming is taking over acres that will be off limits to fishermen. And aquaculture is growing.

The Rhode Island quahog is so delectable you can eat it raw. But if you had a bad one, it would not be a good day. That's why it's so important wastewater from the city of Providence gets treated and doesn't go out into the bay.

"We used to put billions of untreated sewage into the bay in a heavy rain event. Now with those tunnels being built under Providence -- those (combined sewage overflow) tunnels -- that water is contained and treated and then discharged into the bay. So, big changes are coming to the bay, I think," Chafee said.

And the push for shellfish management is putting some in touch with one of Rhode Island's claims to fame.

"Through this initiative, we've been taking people out for their first clamming. That's why we want to get people out there. Introduce them to their own bay," said Janet Coit, director of the state Department of Environmental Management.