Closing the life cycle of the native California clam (Tivela stultorum) for commercial aquaculture production

Project Number
Project Date Range
Funding Agency
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Focus Area(s)
Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture




This project will study the lifecycle of California’s Pismo clam species, conduct feeding trials, investigate the potential of growing the clams in sand-less systems, and will help establish a commercial hatchery pipeline that can contribute towards meeting domestic demand for sustainable seafood. 



Once an abundant and widely enjoyed seafood ranging from central California through Baja, Mexico, significant reductions in clam populations and closure of the commercial fishery in the late 1940s practically eliminated the consumption of Pismo clams. Clams, in general represent one of the highest demand bivalves in terms of market value and consumer preference. In the U.S., clam production generated the second highest annual total sales among bivalves in 2019, second only to oyster production. Market saturation has yet to be met, and demand for clams and locally sourced sustainable seafood options are expected to continue to rise. Pismo clams represent a native California variety that can help meet some of this growing demand. However, to date there exists no published record of how to successfully rear Pismo clams in culture. 

This research project will build on two years of work to establish a commercial hatchery pipeline for Pismo clams by experimenting with feeds containing single or mixed species of microalgae to promote fast growth and high densities of Pismo clam larvae and test hatchery equipment and protocols suited for commercial-scale rearing of these clams.

The overarching goal is to establish a cost-effective and technically feasible aquaculture production pipeline for Pismo clams, which may provide a significant advancement and economic opportunity for the California aquaculture industry. In a market where clams are in short supply but growing in demand, California bivalve growers will have an opportunity to market a native clam with a unique value proposition.


Principal Investigators
Sean Bignami
Concordia University Irvine