At our Lamoine Town meeting on April 7th citizens passed the Frenchman Bay Regional Shellfish Conservation Ordinance with 6 other nearby towns, closing the last unregulated clam flats in the state of Maine. Frenchman Bay has been luckier than most areas in the last five years, it has missed the red tide closures that have hit the rest of the coast every summer. Everyone flocked here though, and our clam flats are feeling the pressure of so many commercial clam diggers looking for a good spot. Many folks say the harvest is down by over 40%. Over the past several years, most of Maine’s clam flats have been repeatedly closed to diggers because of “red tide,” an influx of microorganisms containing the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). The toxin doesn’t affect the shellfish, just the people who eat them.
There has to be something good about red tide, a terrible toxin to people, and I think it’s silver lining is that it led to conservation for clams. The new ordinance goes into effect in June 21st, 2010 if all the towns pass it. Three more have their votes coming up in May.
Did you know you can dig clams in Bar Harbor or Southwest Harbor, you just have to pay $40.00 for a license for a non- resident? It allows you one peck (2.33 gallons) per day, and it’s good for a year. For a day’s license you will spend $10. Strict attention has to be paid to closures due to red tide or pollution; go here to find out.
Finally, some new protection for the clam flats around Lamoine, Hancock, Franklin…..The sad news is that no longer can tourists just run right out in Lamoine and dig up a bunch of clams. Now they will have to hook up with a resident of one of the 7 towns who has purchased his recreational license and watch the clams get dug or purchase a non-resident recreational license. For a small fee per year ($11) one peck of clams can be taken every 24 hours-a great deal compared to the island. This is a small piece to play in a much larger effort to keep clams on everyone’s table for the future. One peck – between 15-18 pounds is quite enough clams for a large group of folks; assuming one pound per person or 4 ounces of meat. It’s a generous amount, and usually more than the casual clam digger needs.
Of course to collect clams you also have to check that the area is open for clamming. There are three reasons that flats get closed. The first is to re-grow clams babies. The second is pollution – usually this can occur after a very heavy storm that has washed out debris from the land and point source pollution. The third reason is red tide, and it’s usually a regional closure.
Lamoine’s shores are called eastern Frenchman Bay.
To check for closures in our area, you can also call this number for the Marine Resources Hotline* Division II: Includes the area from the eastern shore of the St. George River to the Canadian Border. Their number is 667-3373.
If you are calling from a touchtone phone and want access to red tide closures, press 1 now. If you want information about the current status of a flood closure, press 2 now. If you want information on the status of conditionally approved harvest areas press 3 now. If you want information on swim beach monitoring, press 4 now. If you are calling from a rotary phone, stay on the line and you will hear all messages
The ordinance also includes a trespass violation. If a landowner warns a clamming person not to trespass once, and it happens again, they can be fined. After three violations of any sort the digger loses his license. This should make many folks along the shore happy. It’s pretty disturbing to come back home after work and find a strange truck or car in your yard. Commercial diggers are courteous and hard working however, and now they will be local. If you buy a license, make sure you have it when you dig!