Lobster by Ramona du houx
A measure to protect Maine’s shellfish acquaculture from disruption and predation received broad support from clammers and coastal municipal officials at today’s public hearing in the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee.
“There’s a lot on the line for Maine coastal economy,” said Senator Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick. “This is a bill that continues our efforts from last session to support and protect Maine’s clamming industry.”
The bill, LD 255, “An Act To Preserve the Integrity of Maine's Shellfish Industry by Increasing the Penalty for Interfering with Permitted Harvest,” expands prohibited action to include the disturbance of shellfish--not only the taking of shellfish. Additionally, it increases the fine against someone who interferes with an acquaculture permitholder from a minimum - maximum of $100-$500 to $500-$2,000.
Brunswick mud flats employ over 50 commercial license holders and provide hundreds of recreational permits, creating nearly $2 million dollars in local revenue annually.
According to Sen. Gerzofsky’s testimony, many municipalities invest significant amounts of time and money into creating sustainable shellfish harvesting management plans every year. These harvesting management plans allow juvenile shellfish to sit undisturbed until they reach a harvestable size or are relayed to another growing area for grow out. This practice also helps protect against green crabs predation that is causing immediate damage to Maine’s clams and industry.
Senator Gerzofsky added, “This is an easy fix to help protect the livelihoods of our hardworking clammers.”
Over the past few years, there has been a drastic increase in the amount of worm harvesting on Maine’s mudflats. Excessive marine worm harvesting has caused a decrease in Maine’s juvenile shellfish stock.
“Both the soft shell clam and marine worm industries are vital to Maine's coastal economy and so their cooperation is needed to develop predator control strategies that will mitigate the effects of green crabs,” said Senator Gerzofsky. “Both industries have an economic interest in properly managing the intertidal zone in a way that does not disadvantage either user group.”
The committee will be holding a work session on LD 255, “An Act To Preserve the Integrity of Maine's Shellfish Industry by Increasing the Penalty for Interfering with Permitted Harvest,” in the coming weeks.