Known in Scotland as 'spoots' for the spouts of water they eject while burrowing into the sand, this mollusc is easily recognisable by its open razor shape. An edible saltwater clam, this remarkable little creature has a life span in excess of 10 years and in some cases up to around 20 years. The razor shell burrows down into the sand and is rarely seen alive, only positioning an exit siphon above the surface to feed by extracting particles of organic matter from the water. When disturbed the Razor Shell uses its large muscular foot to rapidly move deeper into the sediment. These clams prefer fine sand in the low intertidal and nearshore shelf and can be found all around the coast of the United Kingdom.
Spoots have become an increasingly popular dish following their use by celebrity chefs. Traditionally caught by hand, the razor shell burrow is easy to spot with its distinctive keyhole shape. Spoots are also fished with the use of dredged suction pumps and by 'electro-fishing'.
In the EU ‘electro-fishing’ is illegal and in 2014 the Scottish government brought in new licensing laws to crack down on the tonnes of razor clams worth thousands of pounds being sold on the black market. This fishing method involves using electricity to force razor clams out of their borrows, enabling divers to catch them easily. Electro-fishing has attracted a lot of controversy with some evidence of destruction to the marine ecosystem. The use of heavy duty generators also can put divers at risk. With the clams stunned the diver follows behind the boat bagging up the razors. As this method is illegal the equipment used varies widely and so can prove to be unsafe and unpredictable for a diver in the water.
Latin name: Ensis ensis
Size: up to 20cm in males and 15cm in females
Distribution: Common on all British coasts.
Habitat: Coarse sandy areas
Diet: Suspension feeder