PORTLAND, Maine — The nation’s clam haul is steadily dwindling, and a push to attempt to reserve it within the state with the most important business is dividing harvesters, conservationists and scientists who query whether or not proposed new measures will assist.
Maine is the nation’s main producer of soft-shell clams, that are steamed or used to make New England staples similar to fried clams and clam chowder. The harvest has fallen lately to the purpose the place the nationwide haul for 2017 and ’18 was the bottom for any two-year interval in additional than 60 years. In Maine, the shellfish enterprise is challenged by rising populations of predators that eat clams and a declining variety of clammers.
The Maine Legislature is ready to contemplate a invoice that may permit municipalities to ascertain their very own minimal and most measurement limits for shellfish. Proponents, together with presenting Democratic Rep. Joyce McCreight, stated the change would permit cities to set stricter parameters than the state’s minimal of two inches.
The brand new limits would permit cities to guard bigger clams, which have the flexibility to breed extra as they become older and greater, McCreight stated.
“They will go away clams within the floor. Probably, that may produce extra seed and permit the clams to breed,” she stated, including that growing the harvest is “undoubtedly the purpose.”
McCreight’s proposal is up for a public listening to Tuesday that clammers stated could be effectively attended — however the harvesters aren’t essentially all on the identical web page about it.
Wendell Cressey, a clammer who lives in Harpswell and digs clams in Harpswell and Arrowsic, stated the present statewide minimal customary of two inches is sufficient.
“By leaving a clam till its 2 inches, it has an opportunity to seed out extra clams, which makes a future,” he stated.
However Chad Coffin, a Freeport clammer who’s president of the Maine Clammers Affiliation, stated it’s a greater thought to decrease the minimal measurement to 1 half of inches. Defending the most important clams is sensible, he stated. However when a clammer discards a clam that’s too small to be legally harvested, it runs the danger of being eaten by a predator earlier than it reaches market measurement, Coffin stated.
Each clammers agreed the state’s harvest is in tough form.
“The largest factor to know is, total, clam landings are horrible,” Coffin stated.
Skeptics of the proposal additionally cite considerations concerning the piecemeal method of making use of town-by-town laws. Brian Beal, a professor of marine ecology on the College of Maine at Machias, stated he helps decreasing the minimal harvesting measurement of clams, which isn’t a part of McCreight’s proposal, and putting a most customary, which is. And, he stated, the brand new guidelines have to be utilized coastwide.
The clams are prone to predators similar to inexperienced crabs and milky ribbon worms which have develop into greater issues as coastal waters have warmed, Beal has stated.
“These clams are being consumed by predators which might be thanking the state of Maine for permitting them to have a meal. I wish to give them to the clammers. I would like individuals within the state of Maine to learn from these clams,” Beal stated.
Maine soft-shell clams are sometimes known as “steamers,” they usually’re harvested in tidal mud from cities similar to Scarborough and Yarmouth in southern Maine to Cutler and Lubec close to the border with Canada. They’re harvested in a few of the state’s most rural coastal areas, and in addition in its seaside cities.
Clammers in Portland, the state’s largest metropolis, introduced in some $35,000 in clams final 12 months, when the state harvest was price practically $13 million on the docks.
The state’s clammers harvested slightly greater than 1.45 million kilos of clam meat in 2018, up barely from the earlier 12 months. However the 2017 whole was the state’s lowest since 1930, and final 12 months’s was nonetheless the least since 1959.
The nationwide harvest has fallen as Maine’s has, with the harvest additionally down from a decade in the past in different clamming states similar to New York and Massachusetts.