Fishing boats in Portland, Maine. Photo by Ramona du houx
The Maine Senate enacted a proposed law that protects Maine’s shellfish acquaculture from disruption and predation on May 20th.
“There’s a lot on the line for Maine’s coastal economy,” said Senator Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick, the sponsor of the measure. “This is a bill that will support Maine clammers and protect Maine’s clamming industry from green crab predation.”
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 during the public hearing 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 bill will now go to the governor for his consideration before it can become law.