Issue of May 23, 2008

Still reeling from an estimated $10 million loss in 2005, southern Maine’s shellfish industry is facing another devastating blow from red tide, a microscopic algae that renders clams, oysters, mussels and carnivorous snails highly toxic to humans.

Earlier this month, the Department of Marine Resources shut down coastal areas from Pemaquid Point, near Bristol, to the New Hamsphire border to shellfish gathering, but spared the Scarborough River.

That changed Monday, when samples taken from the Scarborough River also showed high levels of toxins.

The Scarborough River, the source of about 75 percent of the shellfish harvested in Scarborough, was closed Monday “as of 1 p.m,” Harbormaster Dave Corbeau reported.

“It could be a while (until it reopens),” he said. “You don’t know when it’s going to open. There’s no indication …”

It’s another blow to Scarborough’s 28 commercial clammers, who have already lost about 25 percent of their clam beds due to pollution in the last year and a half.

“It’s devastating to these guys,” Corbeau said. “That’s when you make your money, is in the summertime. When it was closed back then (in 2005), it affected them immensely.”

Traffic through the Maine Turnpike exit 42 interchange was up 14 percent, and the brand-new, 1,200-space parking lot was full to capaciy as Scarborough’s much-heralded Cabela’s retail outlet opened its doors Thursday at 5 p.m.

And when the store re-opened Friday morning, hundreds of people lined up in the parking lot at 8. The celebrities, displays, giveaways, special exhibits and dioramas kept the visitors coming throughout the weekend.

“We were extremely pleased with the reception we’ve received,” said Cabela’s spokesman John Castillo. “All in all it’s been a very successful opening for us. It’s been an exciting time and a great day for us.”

“I guess to people in the area, it was like the second coming of Christ,” said Jeff Messer, Scarborough Town Council chairman, who attended an invitation-only ceremony Thursday afternoon. “It’s like the Super Bowl for people who are into hunting and fishing in this state.”

A proposed six-month moratorium on tattoo parlors in South Portland passed a first vote by the City Council Monday night and will be up for final adoption on June 2.

Councilors voted 4-3 to adopt the temporary ban to give city staff time to develop rules to regulate tattoo and body-piercing shops that choose to open in South Portland.

Rules may include background checks on operators, local health inspections and requirements for signs and building facades.

Prompting the proposed moratorium was interest by a business to open the first tattoo and body-piercing shop in South Portland, at a site off Broadway.

With tourist season about to begin and clam flats closed due to red tide, lovers of the steamed or fried bivalves will likely be paying more for their dinners.

Currently, the price of a gallon of clams is $85 – $10 more than this time last year, according to David Wilcox, owner of Ken’s Place Seafood Restaurant in Scarborough. Wilcox said he expects that with Monday’s closure of the Scarborough River to clamming, there will be a price hike by the end of the week.

And Wilcox, who has owned Ken’s Place since 2000, said he’s seen the price of clams go up to $135 per gallon during previous red ride episodes.

He also predicted a drop in business as a result of the red ride.

“I’ve already noticed (a decrease in business),” Wilcox said. “Any time there’s red tide people get nervous that all seafood is effected.”

Cape Elizabeth High School has been added to U.S. News and World Report’s list of “Best High Schools” for 2008, earning a spot in the silver medal category.

The school was not included in the original list of “Best High Schools” due to missing documentation, school officials said. The list, first published in late 2007, selected 100 gold medal schools, 405 silver medal schools, and 1,086 bronze medal schools from the nation’s more than 18,000 high schools.

U.S. News and World Report published several additions and adjustments to the list this week. The changes included adding Cape Elizabeth High School as a silver medal school and North Haven Community School on North Haven Island as a bronze medal school.

“We are viewed as a high-performing school district, and certainly this proves that we are,” Superintendent Alan Hawkins said Monday. “Students and staff work hard.”

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