By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s a die-off invisible to most people, but not watermen. The huge amount of fresh water pouring into the bay from heavy rains is wiping out clams. What’s coming up now is mostly empty shells and dead, decaying white clams.

“This is a manmade disaster,” waterman Michael Eber said. “This ain’t Mother Nature,”

Watermen blame the Conowingo Dam. With recent record rains come supercharged releases of fresh water, when a gradual release might give marine life a chance to adapt.

“It’s a shock effect on the whole bay, from being salt water to fresh water, and the creatures living in it can’t stand the change,” Eber said.

“This is a direct result of what’s happening in the Conowingo with this influx of fresh water,” said Rob Newberry, with the Delmarva Fisheries Association. “Specifically from the Susquehanna, it’s starting to kill these clams at a rapid rate.”

The market for Chesapeake white clams is New England, essentially chowder and fried clam strips. The last two weeks of summer brings heavy demand.

Now it means lost business.

“We don’t have a lot of product right now,” says Jack Angier of Harris Seafood. “It’s down a lot since late July, and it’s getting worse,”

Watermen and wholesalers are both worried clamming could come to an end within a week, and take years to recover.

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