Franklin takes over regional shellfish program



SULLIVAN — After a brief search, the Frenchman Bay Regional Shellfish Program has found a new home in Franklin.

The program formed more than a decade ago to act as a steward over the mudflats in Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Trenton, Franklin and Ellsworth after the region became inundated with clammers from up and down the coast who were fleeing red tide closures in other parts of the state.

While none of the municipalities could likely manage a shellfish program to protect the resource on its own, the seven together could get a handle on the flats, with the city of Ellsworth handling the administrative duties, licensing and enforcement.

But, as the Ellsworth City Council reasoned last month, Ellsworth doesn’t actually have any mudflats, making it hard to justify the administrative load.

“The reality is the areas that are being serviced are outside of the city of Ellsworth,” said City Manager Glenn Moshier. “Ellsworth has (borne) the burden of the fiscal responsibility for the program, the managing of the program and, up until two years ago, the law enforcement supervision of the program.”

While he understood the value of the program, Moshier said it was time for one of the towns in the partnership to step up. The council voted for Ellsworth to cease being the designated administrative community.

That left the program looking for a new place to go. Earlier this month, the Franklin Board of Selectmen voted to take over the role and the Frenchman Bay Regional Shellfish Municipal Joint Board ratified the change on April 19.

Franklin will now handle commercial licenses, collect fees from the other communities, manage the program’s finances, administer a contract with the clam warden and prepare the program’s annual report for the state Department of Marine Resources.

Franklin’s decision came as a relief and may have saved the program entirely, said Gary Edwards, the chairman of the shellfish board, during the board’s meeting in Sullivan. He had run through several other scenarios to try and keep the program alive, but many weren’t feasible.

It will take some time to transition the program from Ellsworth to Franklin, but the board hoped to have everything settled before licenses went on sale in June.

“The staff seems to be ready to take it and go,” Edwards said.

The board is also working on upping clam warden Michael Hall’s schedule from 20 hours a week to 40 and moving him to being a contractor instead of a municipal employee, but much of that work is dependent on getting final financial reports.

There are currently 49 commercial clammers in the region, 10 of whom are from Ellsworth but who clam in the neighboring towns. In 2020, more than 530,000 pounds of clams were landed in the region, with Franklin leading the pack with 270,688 pounds, according to DMR data. 

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