Clam committee license decision draws reprimand

BAR HARBOR — The Marine Resources Committee here was informed it had breached state law by awarding commercial shellfish licenses to two resident clammers outside of the exclusive issuance period.

At its Oct. 18 meeting, the committee decided to award licenses to clammers Josh Kane and Joshua Hodgkins. Neither fulfilled the town’s seven-hour conservation work requirement.

The licensing rules say that all applicants must be from Bar Harbor and have done a minimum of seven hours of conservation work before July 1. But, after the 90-day period, all licenses become available (including to nonresidents) on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to state law.

This year, only two people completed the seven hours before the deadline, and one nonresident applied for one of the remaining licenses. In October, the committee passed a motion stating Kane and Hodgkins had “met the conservation hour requirement,” due to their “intent to get hours,” “miscommunication” of deadlines and “reduced opportunities” for hours.

“You are supposed to get your hours before July 1 and after [90 day period of issuance], licenses are supposed to be sold without any conservation or residency requirement,” committee Chair Megan McOsker said in an email. “As chair, I will say that I was simply unaware of these two rules, and we did not have meetings in June, July or August of this year.”

“This autumn, we realized, through talking with the state, that the two remaining licenses were to be sold without regard for conservation hours,” she said. “As a committee, we discussed this issue and voted to give our resident commercial clammers who had done nearly all their conservation hours the right to buy the licenses.”

McOsker said that this ruling breached state law, leading to a memo from the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

“We were further advised to ‘please ensure all future licensing procedures are followed exactly according statute, regulation and the municipal ordinance,’” McOsker said.

She said that memo was nothing more than an expected slap on the wrist, though the state could take away Bar Harbor’s allotment of licenses for repeated infractions. She added that the committee would work to ensure that its licensing procedure would follow state law from now on.

At the latest meeting on Nov. 15, Secretary Chris Petersen suggested that after 30 days of Bar Harbor-exclusive applications, they could open applications up to out-of-town harvesters who had completed conservation work. This option would leave 60 days before the licenses would be sold with no strings attached per state rules.

“I’d rather it go to an out-of-towner than just a free-for-all,” Petersen said.

Conservation work includes attending meetings and assisting in surveys.

Harbormaster Charlie Phippen, who serves as the town’s shellfish warden, suggested the committee consider lowering the number of licenses because the harvest here has been very small.

Crab impact on clams

Preliminary data from a study conducted by the Marine Resources Committee show the dramatic impact that green crabs have had on the clam population in Bar Harbor. The data from the study were presented during the committee’s Nov. 15 meeting.

In October, Petersen told the Islander that the clam harvest has dropped 25 to 30 percent this year, from Trenton to Sorrento.

The study, according to Petersen, involved putting nets a few inches below the surface of the mud to shield clams from predators.

Petersen said that the researchers occasionally found green crabs on top of the netted areas, demonstrating that the nets were only keeping those predators out.

The data showed that 477 clams were contained in three sections of the netted area, while only eight were found in three equal areas of exposed mud.

“It looks like [the crabs] are doing damage,” Petersen said. “It was stunning.”

McOsker said the data clearly show the crabs created a “significant predator problem” for clam

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd is a University of Maine graduate and a former Bar Harbor reporter for the Mount Desert Islander.
Samuel Shepherd

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