|3.2% of the national fishing fleet
In the Italian Friuli Venezia Giulia region, fisheries activities are directly related to the characteristics of the coast and of the seabed. In particular, the water is not very deep and this favours evaporation, thus increasing salinity. The high salinity of the sea water is mitigated by the water from the many rivers that flow into the sea in this area. In spring and autumn these unique conditions result in remarkable phytoplankton production, this is precious in producing high quality fish products and, as a consequence, a thriving sea.
The region’s fishing fleet consists of about 400 vessels, which land their daily catch without straying too far from the coast. According to the season, the catch consists of oily fish, cuttlefish, European locust lobster, sole, flounder, venus clams and smooth clams – which are taken to the three regional fish markets: Marano, Grado and Trieste.
The smooth clam
The smooth clam (Callista chione) is bivalve mollusc with a large oval shell, shiny on the outside and porcelain-like on the inside with a smooth edge. It is pinky-brown in colour and covered with concentric reddish-brown lines and darker marks that go from the tip to the edge. It can reach 8-10 cm in size.
The clams are found on sandy islands of a few hundred meters in diameter, which emerge from sandy sea beds at depths greater than 12 m, which means that the distance from the coast is over 8 miles (approximately 15 km).
The distance from the coast means that these clams are far enough away from land-based pollution sources to ensure that they are clean and healthy, moreover the fact that they live far away from fresh water sources mean that they a acquire a unique flavour that differentiates this species from other clams living in coastal waters. We should also recall that these clams can live for over 10 years, reaching a maximum of 11 cm in length, with an average size between 6 and 8 cm.
Smooth clams are caught using a hydraulic dredge, a sort of metal cage that is lowered from the vessel onto the seabed to collect shellfish from the ridges of sand. The catch is selected by hand by the fishers and then packaged. Smooth clam producers’ organisations represent the only example of interregional management of fisheries resources in Italy. All the fishers from the Veneto and Friuli regions (160 operators on board 82 vessels, and a dozen or more people working on shore) have defined strategies and common rules for the sale of their fish product. Chioggia is the reference port and from there smooth clams are sent around the country.
This fishery is relatively recent: in Friuli it has been carried out since the 1960s while in the Veneto region it became more intensive in the 1990s, thanks to technology that helped solve the problems caused by greater depths.
The timing of fishing trips and quantities caught are planned and regulated by a protocol which is drawn up every year, at the beginning of the fishing season: the aim is to ensure biological recovery of fishing zones in order to protect the reproduction and growth of the molluscs found in natural shoals.
These clams can be eaten raw or cooked, however in both cases it is important to open them properly and clean them, removing the sand. To clean and use the clams a thin knife is needed and a steak hammer. Slip the knife between the two shells, pushing it all the way in to cut through the two muscles on the sides of the shell so can be opened up completely.
At this stage the greyish skin covering the mollusc should be removed as well as the intestinal sack containing gravel. Once the clam has been detached from the lower part of the shell, it can be consumed raw. If you plan to cook the shellfish, however, once extracted from the shells it should be put onto a chopping board and beaten with the steak hammer, especially the red foot, until it is tender and thin.