Clam Ordinances to Impact Local Economy

By Amy Jeanroy

Rakes and rubber boots are a common sight on the beaches of Downeast Maine during clamming season. The local economy gets a boost from the harvest, as diggers harvest in designated areas. Diggers need a strong back, a rake, and a bucket to make some money. It's a way of life that goes back generations, and families rely on the income each year. According to Tim Sheenan, owner of  Gulf of Maine, Inc. (GOM), this translates into several million dollars each year. 

Diggers also need to apply for a license in order to harvest clams. These licenses are part of the careful management of clams, ensuring that their numbers grow and jobs are protected. With the recent reseeding of Hersey Cove in Pembroke and East Bay in Perry, the future of clamming is positive.

The number of licenses issued is decided by local ordinances. On May 11, the voters in Eastport will vote on a clam ordinance that will severely impact the number of licenses issued. The proposed ordinance will adopt a 10:1 ratio for resident/nonresident licenses. There are fewer than 10 Eastport diggers currently. If the proposed ordinance goes into effect, no nonresident clam diggers will be able to dig Eastport again. 

There will also be a  meeting, open to all diggers, of the Joint Pembroke-Perry Shellfish Committee on Thursday, May 12th at 6 p.m. at the Pembroke Town Office. On the agenda will be a discussion and possible vote to change to a quota system for Perry Pembroke licensing of its clam diggers as well as to change the licensing structure and fees. 

 If these changes are made, then over 50% of GOM’s diggers will be forced to dig in the last 2 open area coves in Robbinston; Brooks Cove and Mill Cove. 

According to Sheenan, the answer lies in a united approach to licensing. 


"We need to work together with one LARGE multi town ordinance not fractured up into small competing groups. We need lots of diggers for a consistent flow of clams.  If 400 locals have licenses, that doesn’t mean that more than 30 show up on any one given day."