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The Paid Destruction Of the Rhode Island Quahog Industry-Food or Money-First Edition

The paid destruction of the Rhode Island Quahog industry happened over a twenty to thirty year period, with the bulk happening between the 1980’s and 1990’s. Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), University of Rhode Island (URI), Roger Williams University (RWU), and directly and indirectly, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA). These groups decided long ago it was going to be money instead of food for the Rhode Island Quahog industry, and they, the ‘experts,’ got paid to do it.

The destruction of the RI quahog fishery of 3000 fishers took place with a regulation change for measuring the minimum size of quahogs from RIDEM, going from a ‘ring size of one inch diameter minimum size to a hinge size of one inch width, which was the N.Y. minimum size. The RI almost quahog market instantly shifted from timeless historic taking bigger quahogs to one that was rabid for barely legal clams. This almost instantly directed the 3000 fishers to beds of tiny clams for two reasons, first and foremost because a bag of tiny count neck clams are five hundred to a bag, and the older straight run quahogs are two hundred fifty to a bag. Almost overnight the raping of baby quahog beds took place because you could now dump piles of small and baby quahogs on a one inch rack and screen to get the most barley legal quahogs for the New York ‘count system’ market. Before the count and rack system, each small clam would have to be passed through a ring, which made picking through a pile of tiny little necks not worth the effort because the number of pieces or ‘count’ that you caught didn’t matter because you were getting paid by the POUND!!!

By 1985 or so the historic buying of quahogs changed from buying them by the pound to buying them by the ‘piece’, or each individual clam. This led to effort shifting from a quahog economy based on bigger quahogs, to tiny count necks. A very important aspect of this change was the fact that almost all quahog buy shops had shucking rooms/houses for the bigger quahogs-the affordable food vs the money for expensive tiny clams. All of a sudden, small clams were worth moor than big clams. Outrageous and totally non nonsensical this was, which was perfect for the self-defeating underlying mentality of Rhode Island. Last I knew, RI had two certified shucking houses that produce food, and it has been that way for a very long time.

Again, the critics can take a long walk off a short dock on this one, because back in 2010 one of the best and most trust worthy, by far, quahoggers I have EVER met (having lived extensively on both sides on Narragansett Bay) confirmed the number one mismanagement reason for the destruction of the RI Quahog industry. Thjis was pointed out in the well researched and journalisticly formatted book Harvesting Bay, Fathers, Sons, and the Last of the Wild Shellfishermen, by Ray Huling.

That most bad ass, knowledgeable, open minded, and TRUSTWORTHY fisherman is Joey Amato. Joey is second generation quahogger, being the son of an old old school East Greenwich quahogging legend Junior, or ‘Junie’ Amato. Junie started fishing in the days of rowing out to quahog, so any critics can just start walking now. Junie reminds me of a mix between a sweet and bad ass Italian Godfather type that I lived among growing up in North Providence, RI, and a tribal fishing elder that I knew a lot of from living in Seattle, and working on the waterfront.

The number one reason for the destruction of the RI Quahog fishery, quoted from Joe Amato and Ray Huling in Harvesting the Bay;  “That’s the second problem with the count standard:catching too many young quahogs. They know they have a bad incentive. There’s profit in depleting populations of juvenile clams. This is especially troublesome for quahogs, because, as is the wont of strange creatures such as the molluscae, most quahogs switch gender throughout their lifespan, and in a pattern that results in quahogs of roughly little neck size being 90 percent male. The count system’s a sort of plague on on firstborn sons, as the quahoggers are wiping out huge numbers of male quahogs that should have become female, which bodes ill for both reproduction and biodiversity”

“It’s not even a THIRD (2012) of the guys that were out there fifteen years ago” says Joey-and that’s just winter numbers. The same goes for the quahogs [little necks]. “You would think that with things having gone from about three thousand guys to about two hundred working everyday in the summer,  there would be an abundance o’ quahogs (necks), but there isn’t.”

That’s right Joey-RIDEM’S thirty year Narragansett Bay Quahog management experiment was in every way, EXACTLY WHAT SHOULD HAVE NOT HAPPENED! THAT’S RIGHT, AGAIN!

The destruction of the RI Quahog industry was funded by the totally unaware RI citizen who put their trust in managing Narragansett Bay in the hands of the VERY wrong ‘experts’-the professes and pontiffs named above.

Stay tuned for revised versions of this story-Food or Money decision where RI went for the ‘money’, and is left with virtually no local healthy food from Narragansett Bay. THAT’S RIGHT!!!!!.

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The Rhode Island Quahog Research Fleet and Ship of Bumbling Fools

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Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan and The F/V Saint Patrick

I had a pit in my stomach during the 2013/14 Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan (RISMP) hearings/meetings at URI when I realized what was left of the RI Quahog industry was going to be abandoned to promote aquaculture and the privitizing of public resources.  The RI state waters quahog, and fishing industries, were going to be left to flounder and sink, while the RI aquaculture industry was going to be promoted in the RISMP. I vividly remember thinking in that moment, “OMG! This is the story of the F/V Saint Patrick.”t the gravity of there situation

The F/V Saint Patrick was a 152′ scalloper out of  Kodiak Alaska that was hit by a rouge wave in 1982. The wheelhouse windows were blown out by the rouge wave that was generated by a Bearing Sea storm that generated mountainous seas and 100 knot winds. There were 11 crew on the Saint Patrick including one woman, and one Rhode Islander.  All power was immediately lost as the rouge wave crashed through the windows and flooded the boat, and the vessel immediately began to flounder in the remote pitch black of this very stormy and frigid Bearing Sea. The captain told the crew that the boat was going down, and they needed to get into their survival suits and prepare to abandon ship. A supreme consciousness and awareness unfolded as they realized they were going to abandon ship into the icy towering winter waves of the Bearing Sea, with only survival suits for 9 people. The two crew members that went in with just winter clothes and a life jacket only survived 10-15 minutes.

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Andrade’s Catch-Supporting the Free and Common and Rights of Rhode Islander’s. *THANKS Edible Rhody*

THANKS Edible Rhody!!!!

***Swim That Rock-EXCELLENT-MUST SEE***

swim that rock

Back in 2009 Academy Award winning film maker Ross Kaufman documented the last words from the Rhode Island quahog industry. Rhode Island once boasted the largest outboard powered fishing fleet in the world-The Rhode Island Quahogger, with  2-3000 participants during the 1980’s. The Rhode Island Quahogger has been reduced to some 50-150 participants in 2014-it’s ‘last man standing’ for the Rhode Island Quahogger.

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The Rhode Island Quahogger: Candidate for the List of Endangered Species?

This seventy page paper is a visionary look at the threats to the 3000 Rhode Island Quahoggers in 1981. The two main threats that are given in the introduction are – Pollution in the Upper Bay and the prospect of an expanding aquaculture industry in the Lower Bay. What an accurate prediction it proven to be true 35 years later! See paper…

Photo credit-Rob Russo

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7/4/16 July 4TH and Independence Day-Rhode Island Royal Charter of 1663 Desecrated in the Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan


The Rhode Island Royal Charter of 1663 has been described as  “the grandest instrument of human liberty ever constructed.” One of the most powerful provisions was ‘The Rights of Man’ which, along with other basic freedoms, granted citizens of Rhode Island Free and Common access to public fisheries resources and the vital, life giving seafood this access provides.

Rhode Island is VERY unique among U.S. coastal states because of the fact that most coastal states manage their shellfish resources (fish that don’t move or swim) on a town or township basis. In most coastal states, you can only shellfish in the town you live in. For example, if you live in Westport MA, you cannot shellfish in bordering Dartmouth MA, or any other coastal town in MA, for that matter. This greatly restricts access to vital shellfish resources for people in many coastal states.

Rhode Island is very unique among coastal states because regardless of where you live in the state, RI residents have Free and Common access to shellfish resources anywhere in state waters. The Rhode Island Charter is an incredibly powerful tool of freedom and the Rights of Man.

Over the last several decades, the Free and Common access to Narragansett Bay granted by the Rhode Island Royal charter has been desecrated, especially by the Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan and the agenda pushed ‘privatizing of public fisheries resources’ and aquaculture.

It’s time to celebrate independence and freedom beyond catch phrases, keywords and scripted talking points. Support the Free and Common and be true liberty and freedom loving people who live by the concept of our founders-Peace Through Prosperity For All!

Wikipedia Link to Rhode Island Royal Charter of 1663

Copyright 2010-2019 Jim Russo All rights reserved

Buckskin Giants of The Eastern Frontier-Independence Day 2014-Celebration of Freedom


East Greenwich News-One of the things that sets East Greenwich and Rhode Island apart from most of the other states in the union, is the presence of a particular brand of independent, rugged individuals called quahauggers (forget the other spellings, they are all derivations of this, the original word from the Narragansett tongue, that of the original people who were settled in R.I. before the coming of the white man, who, like they did with just about everything they touched, twisted it and ruined it and changed it. The original word was pauquahauck. Of course the English, who wanted to spell and say it their way changed it to quahog, quohog, quahog etc. It should be quahaug.)


Photo credit-Rob Russo


Jim and Anthony Russo work the tail end of a blizzard in Greenwich Bay on the Whaleback Whaler

Jim and Anthony Russo work pre-blizzard conditions in Greenwich Bay on the Whaleback Whaler



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Day in the Life: Bounty of the Bay

full rakeEach morning, dedicated groups of quahoggers leave from docks scattered throughout Narragansett Bay to dig up the natural and native bounty waiting to be harvested. Twenty-plus years ago, more than 2,000 commercial fishermen were quahoggers; this year there are 534 active licensed commercial quahoggers, and even fewer call it their full-time profession. Robert Russo, a twenty-six-year-old Bristol native, shares what it’s like to live the life of a Rhode Island quahogger. Read more…  Photo credit-Rob Russo

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Harvesting The Bay – Fathers, Sons and Last of The Wild Shellfishermen

In an in-depth study of the Rhode Island shellfishing community where he was raised, a journalist celebrates the lives of his father and grandfather and probes the nature of sustainability.

Huling describes the physically demanding life of these fishermen who haul the hard-shell clams, known as quahogs, from the depths of Narragansett Bay by using long-handled tools called bullrakes. In the author’s opinion, the sustainable lifestyle of the bullraker represents a model for a radical shift that must take place in how our society values hard physical labor. Read more….

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Fatal Forecast

I was fortunate to learn early in my fishing career at the age of 21, that the laws of nature do not follow the laws of man. I was sailing on the 83′ F/V Edna May out of Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island, to haul lobster traps that were set along the Atlantis Canyon region of the Continental Shelf. These areas are known as ‘The Fish Tail,’ and the ‘Fathom Curves’- about 100 miles south of RI. This was late November – the 22nd, 1980 – the forecast was for fair weather all 3 days of our trip. 

By earlfatalforecasty morning of the second day we began experiencing 100 mph early winter winds with mountainous seas. This storm was a classic example ofExplosive Storm Cyclogenesis-or Weather Bomba Storm that builds up to extreme intensity from nothing in a virtual instant. 
Unlike in the story and movie Perfect Storm, where weather forecasters predicted the combination of storms that would create the Perfect Storm, this storm came out of nowhere, and showed the men plotting that nature follows its own rules. Bobby Brown of the Perfect Storm fame and his son Peter play a major part in this story.
Michael Tougias did a great job describing the unfolding disaster that went down as the day with the most distress calls in New England history- and it’s miraculous ending. Check out Fatal Forecast!
Copyright 2010-2019 Jim Russo All rights reserved

10/3/15 Sakonnet Lobster Sinks South of Block Island


The Sakonnet Lobster and the Edna May had fished together offshore for lobsters since the early 1980’s. Gary Mataronas owns the Edna May, and his brother Jimmy owned the Sakonnet Lobster.

On October 3, 2016, the Sakonnet Lobster sank 40 miles south of Block Island RI. Fortunately all hands got off safely. Check out the dramatic helicopter rescue of the crew in the linked story. I made several fill in trips on the Sakonnet Lobster in the early days, so this story is a little close to home for me. Jimmy and Gary Mataronas caught a lot of lobsters over the years! See linked story…..


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Fatal Forecast Seas

These are two great videos of what conditions were like during the Fatal Forecast event. This video was taken from a 300′ ship, much larger than the fishing boats that were caught in the Fatal Forecast storm!

The 50′ steel hulled lobster boat Fairwind ‘pitchpoled’, or flipped end over end, coming down the backside of a huge combing breaker (sea) in conditions very much like in this video. Out of four crew onboard the Fairwind, only Ernie Hazard survived.  His story of surviving almost 48 hours in a liferaft and a survival suit in conditions similar to conditions in the video is a miracle, and defines the limits of human endurance and will to live.

Rouge Waves 100 Feet High Finally Documented

On February 15, 1982, the offshore oil drilling rig Ocean Ranger was struck by a rogue wave off the coast of Newfoundland that measured almost 100′ high.  This enormous rig capsized (it was held in place by twelve 45,000 pound anchors) and sank after being hit by the rogue wave, killing all 84 crew members.

I was on the Ocean Ranger 3 years earlier when it was conducting exploratory drilling 65 miles off the coast of New Jersey in 1978-9. I was 19 years old at the time, and was working for Peabody Coastal Services doing fuel quality and pollution control work out of Davisville RI. Ode and respect to the power of the ocean! (Ocean Ranger in Cook Inlet AK-Wiki Photo)


S.H.A.R.C. – Sandy Hook Alliance of Real Clammers

S.H.A.R.C.-Sandy Hook Alliance of Real Clammers is a fishermans rights organization started in the fall of 2006 in Highlands N.J. whose main objective is to protect the rights of commercial fisherman and their way of life, and to get rid of NEMO.

The ‘Swim That Rock’ website is dedicated to the clamming legend Greg King, who was a member of  S.H.A.R.C.-Sandy Hook Alliance of Real Clammers, in his final days as a Bayman.

Check out their Facebook page…

Ice Breaking On The Justin Time-Winter 2014/5

Captain Joe Amato and his crew breaking ice on the Justin Time, East Greenwich Yacht Club-Winter 2014/5

Photo credit-Jim Russo

Copyright 2010-2019 Jim Russo All rights reserved


Who Cares?

Who Cares?

While working on this Free and Common project over the years, and my experience as a lifelong RI Quahogger, I was asked and told countless times by those involved in RI Quahogging, “WHO CARES ABOUT THESE ISSUES??? JUST GO TO WORK, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT, AND DON’T THINK ABOUT IT!” because “THERE IS NOTHING YOU ARE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT!!!!

Plato’s Allegory of The Cave in real life!

Hopefully, the tide has turned on this self-defeating attitude that seems rampant in RI. HOPE IS THE STATE MOTTO!!! LETS HOPE….

Photo credit-Jim Russo

Copyright 2010-2019 Jim Russo All rights reserved


THE Saltiest Seaside Shanty

This is one of the few AUTHORIZED photo’s of THE Saltiest Seaside Shanty in existence, and Free and Common is honored to host it!!!

The legend of THE Saltiest Seaside Shanty is-The shrunken skeleton of the starving RI Quahogger appears eerily in the top window on nights around every moon, asking for the Free and Common back, as well as any quahog ground that the management has taken over the years…a hauntingly familiar message it is…

Photo credit-Jim Russo

Copyright 2010-2019 Jim Russo All rights reserved IMG_1034

Nature’s Wild Perfection




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Biggie Smalls Quahogs

Natures perfection and biodiversity that man can only dream of matching with aquaculture!

Photo credit-Phil ‘PJ’ Russo

Copyright 2010-2019 Jim Russo All rights reserved