Ocean quahog

Arctica islandica


The ocean quahog is found all around Iceland on sand or mud bottom at depths of 5 to 50 m. It also occurs deeper. The ocean quahog has a wide global distribution. It is found in European waters from the White Sea in the north to the Strait of Gibraltar in the south. It is also around the Faroe Islands, and from Labrador to Virginia in North America.


The ocean quahog is large bivalve that can reach a height of up to 10 cm. It grows rather rapidly during the first years, but the growth slows down after it reaches sexual maturity at the age of about 20 years, at the size of 6 to 7 cm. The ocean quahog can live to a very old age; the oldest individual measured in Icelandic waters was estimated to be about 400 years old. This makes the ocean quahog the longest-lived animal on earth. The ocean quahog lives buried in the sediment so only a small opening of the shell is visible. It feeds by filtering phytoplankton and organic material from the sea.


The fishery for ocean quahog is very specialized. For along time commercial fisheries in Icelandic waters are only conducted by one boat, specially designed to use a hydraulic dredge. Historically the ocean quahog has also been fished with smaller dredges for bait in the cod fisheries.​


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