Littlenecks (Mercenaria mercenaria)
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Littlenecks are small quahogs -- the official state shellfish of Rhode Island. The name 'quahog' comes from the Narragansett Indian word 'poquauhock'; the Narragansett tribe used to use the shells, particularly the purple parts, for beads that were traded as wampum.
Biology: Quahogs are found from Canada to the Yucatan Peninsula, but Rhode Island's coastal salt ponds and Narragansett Bay provide prime quahog habitat, and Rhode Island has traditionally supplied 25% of the U.S. commercial catch. They burrow in the mud and feed by filtering plankton from the water.
Sustainability status: Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management surveys show the quahog resource in Narragansett Bay to be increasing since 2003, at the same time that commercial landings have been going down. This means that the stock is sustainable and increasing. Improvements to water quality in Narragansett Bay mean that harvest will likely increase in coming years.
Harvest: Quahogs are harvested by diving and raking.
Nutritional facts: A 100-gram portion of quahog meats contains 22 grams protein, 100 calories, 2 grams of fat, 95 mg sodium, and 55 mg cholesterol.
Available live, year round.
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