Nova Scotia

Clam shortage in Nova Scotia due in part to weak dollar

Craving clams? You'll probably have to wait until the loonie digs itself out of its hole.

Restaurants in Nova Scotia scrambling to find clams

The weak dollar means many Nova Scotia and New Brunswick clams are heading south of the border.

Craving clams? You'll probably have to wait until the loonie digs itself out of its hole.

Until the Nova Scotia clam season reopens in April, supply will be nearly non-existent across the province, say sellers. The shortage is partly due to the poor exchange rate, with New Brunswick exporters taking advantage of the strong U.S. dollar to sell over the border.

Other factors are contributing to the shortage. Nova Scotia's clam harvest was poor last summer, with many beaches closed by the federal government because of red tide. That meant suppliers stored less for the winter, says Brian Samson, general manager of Green Island Distributors in Arichat.

When its inventory runs out, Nova Scotia generally depends on New Brunswick for clams, since some New Brunswick beaches are open while Nova Scotia's are closed.

However, some of the big seafood distributors in the province have changed hands and developed closer relationships with American buyers over the last few years, says Samson, whose company only sells within Canada.

Strong U.S. demand for clams

American demand for Canadian clams seemed to go up last year, but right now any U.S. demand coupled with a strong dollar would create problems for Maritimers, he says.

"All things being equal, if the market here in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick want their clams, they'll have to match the pricing in the U.S.," said Samson.

Lucien Nehme, the owner of Willman's Fish & Chips in Halifax's Hydrostone neighbourhood, says this is the worst shortage since he bought the business 11 years ago.

Normally, he goes about a month every winter without clams in stock. This year, he used them up last week. Now, to the 15 to 20 people who try to order them daily, he warns there won't be any for at least two months.

John's Lunch in Dartmouth was also out for a spell this winter, but it got a rare shipment on Thursday.

Co-owner Fotis Fatouros said it took a lot of wrangling to get the clams. Their origin is a mystery even to the supplier.

John's Lunch's normal distributor in Chezzetcook was flat out, they said Thursday. 

But Gail Melanson of Weymouth, who normally shucks New Brunswick clams herself in the winter for Nova Scotia customers, managed to get some from Innovative Fisheries, a major player in Nova Scotia.

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