DMC invites harvesters to take part in shellfish project

Scientists at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center invite current and past shellfish license-holders to participate in shellfish surveys in July on Damariscotta tidal flats. The surveys will inform stewardship of shellfish resources managed jointly by the towns of Damariscotta and Newcastle.

DMC researcher Kara Pellowe will lead the survey team as it gathers data at low tide to assess the abundance, composition and size of soft-shell clams and other shellfish harvested in the area.

“Our flats support a variety of shellfish, including soft-shell clams, quahogs, razor clams, blue mussels, American oysters and European oysters,” says Pellowe. 

Survey participants will be paid $100 per day, for hands-on assistance July 5–12, July 18-19 and July 23–26. 

The research — “An assessment of shellfish resources for coastal resilience and management: Documenting historical and current trends in the Damariscotta and Sheepscot River tidewater flats” — is a part of a project led by the town of Damariscotta.

Damariscotta town manager Matt Lutkus submitted a proposal to the Broad Reach Fund in January 2019 on behalf of the Damariscotta/Newcastle Joint Shellfish Committee. The town was awarded $13,173 to conduct the work, which is being matched with in-kind contributions from shellfish committee members and other volunteers, as well as the town of Damariscotta and the University of Maine. 

The project is one of 15 statewide, thanks to a collaborative initiative involving the Broad Reach Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, the Maine Shellfish Advisory Council, and the University of Maine Department of Communication and Journalism and the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions. More information on the initiative is on the Maine Shellfish Restoration and Resilience Project website.

Area harvesters have noted interannual fluctuations in shellfish resources and the shellfish committee and towns of Damariscotta and Newcastle have lacked scientific data when updating shellfish management. These surveys are a step toward filling the data gap and developing strategies that enhance productivity of the wild shellfish resource and coastal community resilience more broadly. 

“This collaborative project is gathering some of the first data on the health of these populations and will hopefully contribute to more proactive management in the future,” says Lutkus. “I’m looking forward to learning of the team’s results.”

DMC researchers also invite current and past shellfish harvesters to take part in 30-minute interviews about their experiences, knowledge and concerns related to the area’s shellfish resources. Information will be integrated with the biological survey data and presented in the fall to the towns’ joint shellfish committee. For more information or to volunteer, contact Pellowe at 303.895.7674.