There could soon be a new industry on the province's west coast, with three sites under review for a possible clam farm in Bay St. George, but the company behind the proposal says there are many challenges.

"To say that we're involved in a commercial venture is a little bit premature," said the Director of Development for Mills Aquaculture, Marilyn Clark.

"This is still very much an experimental phase, and it's going to evaluate whether there's potential for clam farming in Newfoundland, given that the waters are so cold there."

The New Brunswick-based company has done an environmental assessment on two sites near Stephenville Crossing, and another in Picadilly Bay near Port au Port.

The company is looking at farming soft shelled clams, called steamers, which are popular in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and parts of Quebec.

Digging clams

Clams like a sandy beach and shallow warm water, and three possible sites have been identified in Bay St. George. (Contributed )

Clark said Mills Aquaculture has set up a Newfoundland branch and is looking for a management team.

"We're looking for somebody that has aquaculture education and experience to help us get that off the ground," she said, adding that the Marine Institute has made some recommendations.

"Also people who are willing to help us farm or harvest the site, so we're looking at 20 positions there."

Cold water and other challenges

"We chose Newfoundland because there is lots of coastline, because Newfoundland has a wonderful brand and there's still a lot of people that love to make their living from the sea."

A spring start is the goal, but Clark said there are challenges.

"Well logistics, for sure. Not only do you have to take a ferry, but from one point of the province to another there are huge distances involved," she said.

"Another thing is cold water temperature, so while a clam may take three or four years to grow in Maine, we could be looking at five to seven years in Newfoundland."

The market for clams is seasonal, with a spike in summer, and the product is sold mostly in New England.

If Mills gets the green light in this province, Clark said the first step would be to recondition sites, and try seeding the area with undersized clams.

The ideal location would be a sandy beach with shallow water, close to the Gulf of St. Lawrence ferry.

Clark estimated it would take five years to get a harvest and for now, the company is not looking at infrastructure or processing.

"You would need a sizeable harvest and a lot of volume before you would proceed to open a plant," said Clark. "But partnerships would be maybe something we'd be looking for."