MOUNT DESERT — The municipal Shellfish Committee here is in early talks with Bar Harbor’s Marine Resources Committee about whether to combine shellfish management between the two towns.
At an Oct. 27 Mount Desert Shellfish Committee meeting, Chairman Victor Doyle said the move makes sense for law enforcement purposes and would give clam diggers more available harvest area.
“We already have shared police enforcement between the two towns,” Doyle said. “There could be more commercial interest if we combined committees.”
He pointed to the seven towns–Trenton, Lamoine, Ellsworth, Sullivan, Hancock, Steuben and Sorrento—that belong to the Frenchman Bay Regional Shellfish Committee in upper Frenchman Bay. That joint shellfish management district started in 2009.
“They manage their district instead of each town,” Doyle said. “They combine so that their diggers are able to dig through all of that area.”
The state’s Department of Marine Resources encourages towns to combine management committees when possible.
Mount Desert has 10 licensed diggers, and Bar Harbor has four, two of whom hold a joint license to dig in each town.
Mount Desert’s Shellfish Committee, Doyle said, has “more of a commercial presence. We are able to keep an eye on shellfish conservation and management,” he said. “We are there every day noticing the changes. It could be something minute like seeing the increase of predation and changes in the environment. That is important.”
Bar Harbor would bring other strengths to the proposed partnership, he said, including the expertise of research scientists.
Bar Harbor’s Marine Resources was receptive to discussing the idea further, Doyle said.
Also discussed at the recent meeting was the possibility of reopening Gilpatrick Cove to harvesting. Gilpatrick Cove is situated between Smallidge Point and Gilpatrick Ledge in Northeast Harbor and is home to the Northeast Harbor Fleet.
The area has been closed for at least eight years due to poor water quality.
Two DMR biologists presented a recent study of the area and determined that it is not yet suitable for harvesting.
After performing water quality testing this summer, the biologists said, they discovered raw sewage floating in the water and strong sewage odor coming from a culvert in the cove.
“The problem was addressed in Northeast Harbor last year,” Doyle said. “They found a bathroom that was likely the cause of it. It was fixed, and we thought it may have been our solution, but I guess there is more than one culprit.”
DMR “would suggest you put dye in every toilet [in the area surrounding the cove],” he continued, “and the culprit would be where the dye appears, and then you can narrow it down. That’s a lot of toilets you’d need to flush and permission to get into all the seasonal houses.”
He said the Shellfish Committee is committed to the testing and is researching grants to fund the study. He also hopes the town and local residents might become motivated to help reopen the area.
“I think it is not just important to the shellfish harvesters. It should be important to everyone who lives in or visits the area.”