Cloudy Bay Clams

May 2016

Wild harvesting clams in the Marlborough Sounds

Cloudy Bay Clams was started over 20 years ago by Ant Piper. Ant worked as an engineer and has spent a fair chunk of his life in and around the sea after basing himself in the Marlborough sounds. He and his wife raised their family in the Kenepuru and it was there that Ant first got interested in this branch of acquaculture.

Through trial, error, hard work and many tough times, the business has grown and developed. These days key roles in the business have been taken by family members, leaving Ant to do what he does best – look after the engineering side of the business. 

Currently the shellfish are harvested in Cloudy Bay in Marlborough and off Pegasus Beach in Canterbury. Ant also has a new boat under construction that will be used to harvest clams off Foxton Beach in the North Island.

Ant says, “This fishery has huge potential. We’ve gone from 100 tonne a year annual catch entitlement to 4000 tonne and I believe you could extrapolate that out so that nationally this fishery will be in excess of 12,000 tonne.”

All the clams go into a storage facility and wet store in Marlborough that sits on the spit between Lake Grassmere and the ocean. Sea water is pumped into the facility to keep the shellfish alive and fresh while they’re cleaned and graded before being shipped out live.

The company harvest several species using an innovative harvesting rake that was designed and refined by Ant over several years. The harvester uses water to winnow the clams from the sea bed, and protect the fish from damage as its being handled. Once the clams are on deck they are sorted by the crew into their separate species.

The four main commercial species are Diamond Shell, Tua Tua, Storm Clam and Moon Shell. Each clam has a different flavour and profile. They are harvested from a depth of around 1m through to a depth of around 10m. The business harvests year round giving our markets a consistent supply.

The fish meet all the NZSFA and USFDA specifications. The Pipers carry out regular sampling on their clams and the environment they are in. They also aim to fish sustainably by spreading the areas they harvest and the amount of time the harvesting boats spend in one place.

There’s a local market for the clams but the bulk of them are exported live. Cloudy Bay clams have a growing market in Asia, especially Hong Kong, but the company also exports to Australia and the US. The fish are exported live in polybins.