The soft-shell clam population has seen a huge decline in the past couple of years. Many clam harvesters are concerned that increased predation and warming waters are playing an integral role in this decrease. The intertidal is hugely important to clam harvesters and the health of the Gulf of Maine; as areas in the mud change, things in the ocean change as well. Pesticide use, litter, carbon emissions, and changing temperatures impact the intertidal, and therefore the rest of the Gulf of Maine. It's important to pay attention to what clam harvesters are observing and the Fishermen's Association aims to support this industry by working with clam harvesters to amplify their concerns, advocate for their industry, and share stories from the mud.
Like many Maine harvesters, clammers are also facing waterfront access issues. Whether it's closures due to biotoxins or grumpy new homeowners, access to the intertidal is reducing. MCFA is dedicated to identifying new and innovative ways to measure the importance of the fishing industry to the state of Maine, whether it's cultural capital or economic impact because the clam industry and other fisheries need to be conserved just as the species in the intertidal and GOM need to be conserved.
This past March, MCFA participated in the planning process for a listening session and happy hour at Shellfish Focus Day during the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. The goal was to identify needs in the shellfish fishery and facilitate a paired approach for collaborative research between the shellfish industry and the research and management community. Over 30 stakeholders joined this session to discuss topics ranging from mitigating green crabs to monitoring and adapting to harvesting closures from harmful algal blooms, fecal coliform, and strong rain events. The underlining theme across all topics was how to achieve economic resilience in the face of these changes. To read more about the themes and recommendations that emerged from this session, click here.
In an effort to broaden distribution beyond attendees of Shellfish Focus Day, a summary of this session was distributed to DMR, the research community, and coastal municipalities with shellfish ordinances. We also compiled a Maine Bivalve Shellfish Research Compendium. In this environment of declining soft-shell clam landings, collaborative initiatives should continue regionally and throughout the state to share best practices, research results, and identify partnerships and sources of funding in order to conserve our shellfish resources as well as their cultural and economic importance to Maine.