Gouldsboro: Clam reseeding and shellfish lab


Mike Pinkham – Shellfish Warden

Bill Zoellick – Gouldsboro Shore and Storm Project



The Town of Gouldsboro, located on the Schoodic Peninsula on the eastern edge of Frenchman Bay and western edge of Gouldsboro Bay, has over fifty miles of coastline. Thanks to collaborations with the Schoodic Institute and Downeast Institute, as well as some homegrown ingenuity, Gouldsboro is leading innovative and impactful clam flat restoration efforts. The Shellfish Conservation Committee has been working to provide seed clams at reduced costs to coastal communities. A new phase of this project arrived with the construction of a laboratory for testing soft-shell clam cultivation for community-scale use. Information on Gouldsboro’s shellfish projects and other projects related to coastal change can be found on the Gouldsboro Shore website.

View inland of nursery trays, each containing 10,000 clam seeds from DEI

Mudflat productivity study

In addition to the use of “Beal Boxes” and protective netting, high school volunteers participated in a study to analyze the most productive Gouldsboro mudflats by placing clams in flower pots in different locations and comparing their growth rates. This initiative will identify areas most fertile for clam seeding while promoting the clamming industry to younger generations.

Shellfish Resiliency Laboratory

The Shellfish Conservation Committee decided it needed a more cost effective option to acquire clam seedlings. Instead of purchasing mudflat-ready seed from the Downeast Institute, the group conceived the idea of buying smaller seed and overwintering the stock themselves. Dana Rice of DB Rice Fisheries offered the use of an old lobster buying station on Bunkers Harbor, and Gouldsboro had the beginnings of a lab. 

The Shellfish Resiliency Laboratory is a two-room space with a circulating saltwater tank. The initial batch of 100,000 seed clams spent their first summer growing in nursery trays in the former lobster pound in Bunkers Harbor. Each tray held about 10,000 clams, and most of the trays suffered from green crab predation. The clams that survived the summer—approximately 33% of the batch—overwintered in the laboratory saltwater tank. 

To reduce summer mortality, half of the next batch of seed clams will be raised in redesigned nursery trays with a wooden barrier to block crabs, and half will spend the summer in an upweller inside the lab. 

Gouldsboro Shore program

Gouldsboro Shore is multi-year initiative to help address and prepare for changes to Gouldsboro’s shore. The program’s four focus areas are: 1) restoring the productivity and health of Gouldsboro’s mudflats, 2) preserving shore access, 3) anticipating and addressing risks to Gouldsboro’s coastal infrastructure, and 4) engaging the community in planning for change. 

Preserving shore access is an emerging issue in Gouldsboro. At the 2021 Shellfish Focus Day, Bill Zoellick observed that while Gouldsboro has always been a fishing community, the composition of the town is changing. The transition of seasonal shorefront properties to vacation rentals is contributing to the issue. Members of the Gouldsboro shore access team have been identifying critical access points, and conversations are happening among the land trusts, town, harvesters, and property owners. Gouldsboro intends to have a shore access preservation plan by the end of 2022. 

More information on all focus areas is available on the Gouldsboro Shore website

Education and Community Engagement 

The Town of Gouldsboro partnered with the Schoodic Institute to involve local schools in clam restoration projects. Students from the Sumner High School Pathways Program participated in mudflat studies on clam recruitment, clam growth, and predation levels. The lab provides an opportunity to hire interns and further engage students in the research, which broadens shellfish projects into a community effort, and shows youth that a livelihood is possible in Gouldsboro. The Town is hiring a high school student lab assistant in 2022. 

This project underscored how the clam fishery depends on community support and awareness. Gouldsboro hosted three public events in 2021 to increase public awareness around clam harvesting. 


Gouldsboro is just beginning experimentation in the Lab. These efforts will be useful for other communities trying to restore clam flats and address climate-related changes to the clam fishery. The 2022 Maine Shellfish Restoration and Resilience grant will support experiments and data collection to address green grab predation in the nursery trays. 

Project timeline

  • 2017-2018

    Sumner Memorial High School students partner with the Gouldsboro Shellfish Committee on restoration projects

  • January 2021

    Works begins on the Shellfish Resilience Lab

  • June 2021

    First batch of clam seed is floated in nursery trays in Bunkers Harbor

  • September 2021

    Gouldsboro receives funding for the “Shore and Storm” programs

  • November 2021

    Nursery trays are hauled in from Bunkers Harbor and the clam seed is moved to the tank in Shellfish Resiliency Lab, or to the ocean floor, for overwintering

  • December 2021

    Gouldsboro Shore Program begins shore access work

  • February 2022

    Gouldsboro recieves funding to continue work on the Shellfish Resilience Lab


Gouldsboro Shore Website

Ellsworth American coverage of public events and funding:

“Public invited to see clam restoration efforts”

“Clammy weather doesn’t deter clam tasting”

“Shellfish lab to harbor first clam crop”

“Gouldsboro receives grant to study eroding coastline, public access”

Report: 2021 Gouldsboro Nursery Box Data

Video: Gouldsboro Shellfish Resilience Project

Video: 2021 Shellfish Focus Day Panel featuring Gouldsboro

Video: “Community to restore and sustain clam flats,” 2020 Shellfish Focus Day

Video: 2018 Shellfish Focus Day presentation on the Pathways Program and engaging high school students