In a vote of 16 to 19, Maine Senate Republicans, including Senate Republican Committee Chair Linda Baker, sustained Gov. LePage’s veto and undermined coastal towns’ ability to protect Maine’s clamming industry and address the threatening issue of green crabs.
LD 435 received unanimous bipartisan support in the state’s Marine Resources Committee. Senate Republican Committee Chair Linda Baker sustained Gov. LePage’s veto even though she initially voted for the measure and serves the coastal communities of Georgetown, Phippsburg, West Bath, Woolwich and Arrowsic where clamming is a vital local industry. Municipal shellfish wardens and town officials from these areas have invested a significant amount of time, money and energy into creating a sustainable shellfish harvesting management plan every year to protect this natural resource and the families who depend on its sustainability.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick, would have extended protections put into place last year to protect Maine’s shellfish industry. Softshell clams are Maine’s third most lucrative fishery but in recent years has been threatened due to damage from green crabs. In one year alone, landings went down by half a million pounds from 10.6 million pounds in 2013 to 11.1million pounds in 2012.
“If we want to have clams this summer then we need to do something to protect Maine’s shellfish industry. Furthermore, there is so much on the line for the many hard-working Maine people who rely on this industry to make a living,” said Senator Gerzofsky. “I am disappointed that the bipartisanship that occurred in the committee and earlier in the Senate didn’t carryover to today’s vote.”
According to the Maine Clammers’ Association, clamming directly employs over 1,500 people in the state of Maine. Research shows that the total economic impact of the shellfish industry is approximately $56.0 million, with $29.9 million going to Maine residents as employment income.
The bill would have placed a two year delay on the repeal of the provision of law that prohibits the harvesting of marine organisms from within municipal predator control project areas, except for municipal removal of green crabs. The bill also would have provided a two year extension on the municipal predator control pilot project within the Department of Marine Resources to allow the department to properly evaluate the effectiveness of predator control strategies in increasing the survival rate of soft shell clams and marine worms.
“We, as a state, have a responsibility to ensure sustainability for this key Maine industry by investing in and protecting it for future generations,” said Senator Gerzofsky. “If nothing is done to adequately protect our intertidal areas from green crabs, it will not be long before there is nothing to harvest.”
In Brunswick, mud flats employ over 50 commercial license holders and provide for hundreds of recreational permits, creating nearly $2 million dollars in local revenue annually.
The bill is now dead.