Politics

January 23

Maine clam diggers, worm harvesters square off over mud flats

Clam diggers say the bill is an effort to fight off a green crab invasion decimating clams, but worm diggers say it’s about ‘control of the mud.’

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Adam Morse digs for clams on a flat along the Harraseeket River in Freeport in this Tuesday, March 27, 2007 file photo. Clam diggers say a new bill is an effort to fight off a green crab invasion decimating clams, but worm diggers say it’s about ‘control of the mud.’

Gregory Rec/2007 Staff File Photo

click image to enlarge

In this 1998 file photo, Don Jewett, of Alna, Maine, rinses a glob of bloodworms he dug on a mudflat.

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Additional Photos Below

The first draft of the bill would have allowed towns to prohibit worm digging in conservation and seed clam areas. Clamming would have been allowed. The bill was amended recently to prohibit both.

The change doesn’t matter to Fred Johnson, a worm harvester from Steuben who said the bill would give towns too much control over intertidal flats, which are in the public domain.

George Lemar reiterated that point, raising his voice as lawmakers tried to cut off his remarks.

“Those flats belong to the people of Maine, not the towns, not you,” he said.

Supporters of the bill tried to downplay the division between the clammers and worm harvesters.

“L.D. 1452 will be played out today as one industry trying to gain exclusive fishing rights over another,” said Dan Devereaux, the marine resources officer for Brunswick. “In reality, there is no preference to one industry over the other in the amendment.”

CRAB INVASION COSTING JOBS

The state has allowed towns with certified shellfish management plans to issue soft-shell clamming licenses based on local shellfish inventories. Brunswick, which has some of Maine’s most productive clam flats, issued 68 licenses in 2011. Mark Latti, chairman of the Brunswick Marine Resources Committee, told the legislative committee Wednesday that the town will issue only 43 licenses this year. The drop is a result of the green crab invasion, town officials said.

“If this was a small business closing ... it would be front page news,” Latti said. “However, these jobs seem to fade away without much notice.”

Towns and the Maine Clammers Association have explored ways to combat green crabs, but the efforts have done little to stop the destruction.

Last year, Freeport approved a $65,000 study to determine whether trapping, fencing and netting techniques can stop crabs. The experiment was overseen by Beal, the professor at UMaine-Machias. Beal planned to install hundreds of feet of plastic fencing across the mouths of coves in Freeport.

Maine Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher testified against the bill Wednesday morning, but said later that his department could support a proposal that imposes fines for removing protective fencing.

Under the amended bill that the committee sent to the full Legislature with its endorsement, towns that put protective fencing around a clam flat could impose fines of $300 to $1,500 for dismantling the fencing.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Adam Morse digs for clams on a flat along the Harraseeket River in Freeport in this Tuesday, March 27, 2007 file photo. Clam diggers say a new bill is an effort to fight off a green crab invasion decimating clams, but worm diggers say it’s about ‘control of the mud.’

Gregory Rec/2007 Staff File Photo

  


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