Since 2005, bacterial pollution has closed flats in the Town of East Machias. Currently, there are over 1,000 acres closed to harvesting between the towns of Machias and East Machias and no locally licensed clam harvesters. To better understand potential pollution sources, as well as provide more data to the Department of Marine Resources, the Town of East Machias has started to investigate these pollution sources. The group used specific DNA water tests that identify the source(s) of contamination whenever possible.These tests distinguish between small mammals, humans, cows, and birds. Information from these tests can then guide further remediation efforts to stop incoming pollution. The Town of East Machias is working closely with the University of Maine Machias to run the tests and analyze the information.
This work has many possible benefits. Along with identifying potential sources, the Town of East Machias hopes to use this work as a first step in adopting a new local shellfish ordinance. This would increase the licenses available to clammers (who would no longer have to buy out of town licenses nearby) and possibly provide opportunities for collaboration. Historically, the Town of East Machias has had enough seed to sell to other communities to support conservation programs as well as support 20-30 local clammers. If a new town ordinance is adopted, local clam diggers could harvest this seed to share with other coastal communities. The project had delays due to COVID-19 and shipping restrictions, but water sampling will be underway in the coming months.
Dr. Sherrie Sprangers