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Published 21 March 2018

Not Just a Tasty Toheroa | A review of the biology, ecology and history of the endemic surf clam

The latest issue of the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, Volume 52.2, features a comprehensive review exploring the plight of one of New Zealand's most popular and rare shellfish.

One of New Zealand’s most prized seafood delicacies, the humble toheroa is discussed in depth in an article in the latest issue of the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. The article, titled “The biology, ecology and history of toheroa (Paphies ventricosa): a review of scientific, local and customary knowledge”, is a collaborative effort by marine biologists at the University of Waikato and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

Toheroa, an endemic, large type of ‘surf clam’ is a taonga species to Aotearoa. Originally a traditional staple for Māori, the toheroa experienced a surge in popularity after a fleeting visit by Edward VIII in 1921. The Prince of Wales was served a broth of the now-iconic green Toheroa soup and it was so delicious, the monarch broke strict royal protocol and asked for a second helping. Needless to say after this stately compliment, the consumption and collection of Toheroa exploded in early New Zealand society, contributing towards a steep decline in the clam's population numbers.


The sought after Toheroa soup | image CC Auckland Museum

The depletion of the resource did not go unnoticed, and by 1969 all commercial harvest of toheroa was brought to a stop by government mandates, with only customary harvests by Māori still permitted today (for hui/meetings or tangi/funerals).

However, despite holding a protected status for over 40 years, toheroa populations have failed to recover.

Impact on the survival of juvenile toheroa by heavy vehicle use on beaches is also thought to have contributed to the clam's failure to significantly increase with conservation efforts.

In the article, P. M. Ross et al. review the history of human interactions with toheroa and our understanding of their ecology, with a view to identify the areas we need to learn more about for the successful management and restoration of the iconic New Zealand species.

To find out more read the article now at Taylor and Francis Online: