Butter Clams (Saxidomus gigantea) are an important food source for coastal residents. They inhabit the intertidal and sub-tidal beaches with porous gravel and areas with high biological activity. The Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery is the first to develop production techniques for the clams and have out-planted clam seed on beaches in lower Cook Inlet to better understand their growth and mortality.
Adult clams are collected and brought to the hatchery where they are conditioned with algae and induced to spawn with cycles of warming and cooling baths. An adult female butter clam can have up to six million eggs. Spawning clams are pooled to ensure genetic diversity and increase fertilization success. The larval stage takes about 24 days at 14°C until the clams reach the setting stage and take on their adult clam form. Growth in the hatchery is relatively slow taking up to 6 months to reach 3-5mm.
7 day old butter clam larvae
3 month old butter clam juvenile
Adult butter clam spawning