Shellfish closures in Tremont as of March. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DMR

Clam committee is under consideration



TREMONT — A Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) biologist outlined for the Harbor Committee last week the steps needed to form a shellfish committee, but any action toward that goal would need to be taken by the Board of Selectmen.

Biologist Heidi Leighton was at the June 29 meeting at the request of the Harbor Committee. At their meeting last month, the committee voted 6-0 to invite a DMR representative to discuss what is involved in forming a committee.

Tremont is the only town on Mount Desert Island without a shellfish committee. During discussions at the Harbor Committee’s May 25 meeting, the need for such a committee was questioned.

Much of Tremont is closed for shellfish harvesting due to the water quality not meeting standards for safe consumption. The closed areas are Bass Harbor, Seal Cove, Goose Cove and Duck Cove, which was added to the list in March.

Leighton told the committee that the first step would be to adopt a shellfish ordinance which would include, among other things, the species to be managed, the licensing of harvesters and how enforcement is to be handled. A town meeting vote would be needed for the ordinance to go into effect, she said.

The DMR has information available to guide a town through the process of writing an ordinance as well as copies online of the ordinances in effect in other towns. Leighton said a recently adopted ordinance for Gouldsboro is a model of a well-thought-out document that balances a variety of interests.

Once an ordinance is adopted, a shellfish warden would have to be appointed, Leighton said. Some towns share a warden as a cost-saving measure, she said. In the other MDI towns, the role is filled by a police officer or the harbormaster.

A plan for managing the resource must be developed.

“It would take several months if not a year to develop a program,” Leighton said. In Eastport, it took a year to complete work on a management plan.

Chairman Mel Atherton asked Leighton her opinion on the health of the town’s clam flats. She said she personally had been only on Goose Cove.

“I didn’t find many clams in that cove,” she said.

Water quality is a major issue.

“The problem is you have a lot of state pollution closures in your town,” Leighton said. “That substantially reduces the amount of flats from which you can harvest.”

A different branch of the DMR conducts the water quality monitoring program. Testing is done a minimum of six times a year, she said.

The DMR divides the source of pollution into “point sources” and “nonpoint” sources. Point sources include pipes discharging raw sewage into the water and other easily identifiable sources. Once identified by the DMR, the town involved is notified of the problem.

“If there were any point sources, your town would know,” Leighton told the committee.

Nonpoint sources include waste from wildlife or livestock and are not as easy to pinpoint, Leighton said.

“Dog poop is one of the worst offenders,” she added.

The committee took no action. Noting that the clam flats are a “valuable resource,” Atherton thanked Leighton, saying selectmen would have to initiate any move toward forming a shellfish committee.