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Quahoggers: Rhode Island’s Iconic Shell-fishermen

Directed by:

David Helfer Wells


15 minutes

Rhode Island’s Quahoggers face a fading craft in Narragansett Bay amid modern challenges and a waning youth interest.


Spend time offshore with some unique characters, Rhode Island’s legendary Quahoggers. These shell fishermen dig clams up from the mud of Narraganset Bay by hand, using metal rakes and brute strength, a process that evolved as a unique response to Narraganset Bay’s ecosystem. We meet three long-time Quahoggers and go on their boats as they practice their centuries-old craft. Speaking with uniquely Rhode Island accents, they highlight the rewards of being a Quahogger, with its high degree of autonomy and the pleasures as well as the challenges of working outdoors. They also discuss the process of Quahogging and their worries for the future.

At a time when many jobs are becoming automated, shipped overseas, or swallowed up by corporate monopolies, shell fishing remains one of the few jobs where individuals with drive and independent spirit still find work where no college degrees are required and no bosses need to be answered. With a long history in Narragansett Bay, the community of Quahoggers possesses an extraordinary wealth of knowledge about the ecosystem of Narragansett Bay and the practice of Quahogging. Yet, that same community of largely older, white men is aging out, retiring, and not being replaced by newer, younger Quahoggers in the kind of numbers needed to sustain the industry. Historically, regulation, pollution of the bay, and competition from imported seafood have been the primary challenges to the Quahogger’s livelihood. Today, this subculture, at the heart of so much of Rhode Island’s history, faces the existential threat of fewer young people taking up the trade.

About the Director

David Helfer Wells is an award-winning visual storyteller who has worked as a newspaper photographer, a freelance magazine photographer, and most recently as a filmmaker. His short films, among them Trap Fishing and Blending into the American Dream, have been screened at festivals in Ankara, Bangalore, Jaipur, Lahore, Lisbon, Mumbai, New Haven, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, Rome, Sacramento and San Francisco. Wells has been honored with the Necati Celik Prize from the Hak-Is International Short Film Festival, the award for Best Short Film from the Melrose Film Festival, and the Best New England Documentary Short from the Southeast New England Film Festival. Born in Albany, N.Y., raised and educated in Los Angeles, he earned a BA from Pitzer College of the Claremont Colleges. He worked as a magazine photojournalist for publications such as Fortune, Life, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Sunday New York Times, and Time magazine, among others.



Marine Ecology

(Free to attend - no ticket or pass required)
Thursday, October 26, 4:00 PM


On-Demand (Worldwide). October 30 - November 5


David Helfer Wells


David Helfer Wells


David Helfer Wells


David Helfer Wells


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