Wakefield boy finds massive quahog, donates it to URI marine research center

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-2116 |
Cooper Monaco
Wakefield resident Cooper Monaco poses with the giant quahog he found in Westerly. (Photo by Todd McLeish)

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – July 30, 2020 – An 11-year-old boy from Wakefield clamming with his grandfather discovered what may be the largest clam ever harvested from Rhode Island waters on July 27 and donated it to the University of Rhode Island’s Marine Science Research Facility at the Narragansett Bay Campus.

The quahog – measuring 5.75 inches across and weighing 2 pounds 7.75 ounces – is one of the largest specimens on record, though the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management does not keep quahog records. A typical quahog grows to about 4 inches across.

Cooper Monaco found the quahog in Weekapaug. He doesn’t want to say exactly where in case there are more to discover.

“I was down on my hands and knees in the water looking for clams, and I touched this huge rock thing,” he said. “I always pull out rocks and throw them to the side and look under them. And then I felt the edge of it and I thought, ‘holy moly, this is a clam.’ So I pulled it out. It was amazing.”

According to Cooper’s mother, Sherrie Monaco, the family goes clamming almost every week during the summer as an outing with Cooper’s grandfather. Cooper found the family’s first two quahogs of the day before discovering the giant one. The family harvested 106 clams in total that day.

“I’ve never seen a clam even half that size before,” Cooper said. “I’ve pulled out big rocks that size before, but it’s really unusual to find a clam this big. It was my lucky day.”

After searching online for records of the largest quahog, the Monaco’s learned that the oldest ocean quahog, nicknamed Ming, was dredged from the waters off Iceland in 2006, and scientists calculated that it was 507 years old. The quahog found by Cooper is comparable in size to Ming, though its age has not yet been determined.

“I’ve been reading the Guinness Book of World Records, so I told my mom not to cook it just in case it’s a record breaker,” said Cooper, who earned his black belt in karate on the same day he found the giant quahog.

Ed Baker, the manager of the URI Marine Science Research Facility, plans to display the quahog at the facility, along with blue lobsters and numerous other sea creatures from Narragansett Bay.

“We try to inspire young kids to get interested in marine science by showcasing some of the marine life found in the bay,” he said. “We also highlight some of the interesting research conducted here and explain why it’s important.”

The facility hosts a diverse array of marine research and features dozens of tanks of all sizes holding a wide variety of marine life, most of which is used for research purposes to better understand the changing marine environment. This year’s studies include research on the effect of warming water on the development of juvenile lobsters, how microplastics affect oysters, disease resistance in local oysters, and an effort to understand coral biology to improve its survival around the world.

The facility is open for tours by appointment, although it is temporarily closed due to the pandemic.