Public invited to see clam restoration efforts

GOULDSBORO — Feasting on a mess of fried clams at a seafood takeout is a ritual for locals and vacationers come summer. Folks are usually too busy savoring each crispy, golden morsel, slathered in tartar sauce, to give much thought to Maine’s supply of soft-shell clams and the shellfish’s fate and future. 

Mike Pinkham and many other municipal shellfish wardens and harvesters in coastal Maine are mindful, though. A flurry of coastwide efforts is underway to conserve and revitalize clam flats from Cutler to Wells. In Gouldsboro, where a shellfish resilience laboratory is being established in Bunker Harbor, Pinkham and Gouldsboro Shellfish Committee members broadcast some 20,000 seed clams off Prospect Harbor’s eastern shore. The baby mollusks are covered with nets to protect them from seagulls, green crabs and other predators in the zone currently off limits to shellfish harvesting. Now, Pinkham and crew want to share what they’re doing and invite the public to come and see for themselves starting at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 6. 

In Prospect Harbor, the public can park either at the U.S. post office on Route 186 or at the Dorcas Library at 28 Main St. Access to the flats is a brief walk around the corner to Lighthouse Point Road. A short distance on the right is the newly established town path accessing Prospect Harbor’s eastern shore. Sturdy footwear is recommended. 

“We are hoping people come and see what’s going on,” Pinkham said late last week, noting that clams are Maine’s second most lucrative seafood after lobster and accounted for $15.671 million in revenue in 2020. The state is the top producer of soft-shell clams in the United States.

On the flats, Pinkham will be joined by some local clam diggers, Schoodic Institute’s Education Specialist Sarah Hooper and Education Research Director Emeritus Bill Zoellick. Beals Island-based Downeast Institute’s marine research hatchery manager, Kyle Pepperman, will be on hand to demonstrate different techniques used and answer questions about clam restoration and preservation. 

For more than 40 years, Prospect Harbor’s mudflats were closed to harvesting due to pollution. But the Maine Department of Marine Resources authorized the zone’s reopening strictly to winter harvesting in 2020. At the June 6 event, Pinkham and others will show how “Beal boxes,” with fine mesh protecting the top and bottom, are being laid on the flats. Designed by the Downeast Institute’s Brian Beal, the wooden boxes capture wild clam larvae and help gauge how much the bivalves are naturally replenishing themselves in the mud. 

Letitia Baldwin

Arts Editor at The Ellsworth American
In addition to editing the Arts & Leisure section, Letitia edits special sections including Out & About, Overview, Health Quarterly, Your Maine Home, House & Garden and Get Ready for Winter. She comes from Chicago, Ill, but has deep family ties to the Cranberry Isles. [email protected]

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