Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



The Elizabeth River, contaminated with PAH, TBT, and heavy metals, is potentially home to a variety of estuarine invertebrates of commercial importance, notably oysters, hard clams, and crabs. Harvestable oysters have virtually disappeared from the system, but it has been rumored among commercial fishermen that a population of small (little neck to cherrystone) hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) exists within the Elizabeth River system. These clams are of serious interest to commercial clammers in the area as a previously unharvested source of market-size clams. Crabs of a harvestable size are also reasonably abundant throughout this river according to local fishermen.

The Elizabeth River is presently closed to any type of commercial bivalve harvest because of bacterial and chemical contamination. Chemical contaminants of concern include heavy metals (including organotin compounds), pesticides, and PAHs. If these factors, bacterial or chemical, were shown to pose no human health risk after suitable depuration, the river could conceivably be opened to the taking of bivalve species.


A report to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.


Clams -- Effect of water pollution on -- Virginia -- Elizabeth River, Tributyltin -- Bioaccumulation -- Virginia -- Elizabeth River, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons -- Bioaccumulation -- Virginia -- Elizabeth River