Lubec: Soft-shell clam wildstock enhancement

Contacts

Amanda Lyons – Deputy Shellfish Warden
Ajbutler1987@gmail.com

Short project summary (PDF)

background

Lubec’s shellfish program has a long history. The town’s economy and culture has always been closely tied to the sea—from the pollock and shellfish which sustained the Passamaquoddy people, through the era of shipbuilding, herring processing and sardine packing, to today’s fisheries which include clams, mussels, scallops, urchins, sea weed, lobster, crab, and elver. Clamming conditions in Lubec are unique: the mudflats are extensive, the tides can reach well over 20 feet, and clams take 4 to 7 years to mature to market size. There are currently 72 diggers with commercial licenses, and 11 harvesters with student licenses.

conservation

In 2020, the Lubec Shellfish Committee conducted a biomass assessment focused on standing stock at four beaches: Old Campground Road, Lawrence’s Factory, Pirate’s Crick, and Globe Cove. The committee also studied survival and growth at Pirate’s Crick, which averaged 60% survival with 1/8 growth rate; and at Lawrence’s Factory, which averaged 40% survival with 1/3 growth rate. The Shellfish Committee plans on connecting with local elementary schools to involve them with these assessments in the future, which will build capacity to collect data and engage the youth in clam conservation.

Moon Snails

In 2010, newspapers started attributing the decline in softs-shell clams in Lubec to moon snails. Moon snails are a type of predatory sea snail native to Eastern Maine and Canada. The snails prey on clams by either enveloping clams with their large foot and dragging them under the sand, or by secreting an acid to soften the clam shell and boring a hole into the shell. Female snails can live up to fourteen years. They lay eggs by emitting a mucous that adheres the sand grains around their bodies into a collar, dispersing thousands of eggs, then sandwiching the eggs with another layer of mucous. This collar is left in the sand for the eggs to hatch in mid-summer.

Moon snail collar collection has become a part of Lubec’s conservation program, and the number of collars is declining.

Conservation Hours

The Lubec Shellfish Committee held a range of conservation and community efforts in 2022. In May, the committee organized a morning of brushing and rocking at Mowry Beach. Brushing is a method of recruitment that entails putting tree boughs on the flats to slow water and create eddies for clam seed to settle. In June, the Shellfish Committee hosted a green crab trap building event. The traps were small, which is an efficient design that allows for more traps to be made from the supplies. Lubec has been exploring longer term markets from green crabs.

A green crab trap from the June 2022 conservation event

In June, volunteers also spent an afternoon collecting moon snails at Seaview. Harvesters brought buckets and spent a few hours removing moon snail collars from the beach. In July, the Shellfish Committee hosted a ‘How to Dig Clams’ event on Mowry Beach, focused on teaching students about laws, regulations, licensing, and the fundamentals of digging clams. The event included a clam bake.  

access

Access is a major challenge in Lubec, and one that the shellfish committee is actively working to address. The continued privatization of the coastline restricts harvesters from accessing the intertidal. Access points are quickly disappearing. Limited access points and the need to cross private property to access the coast to harvest wild shellfish has led to some conflicts between coastal property owners and harvesters. While individuals on the Lubec Shellfish Committee have worked with private property owners and secured access points across private property and continue to work to build bridges between harvesters and coastal property owners, access to the intertidal is at a crisis point in Lubec.

Within this crisis, the Lubec Shellfish Committee and local harvesters continue to work to preserve and protect access. By conserving and supporting the wild clam stock, the Lubec shellfish program is ensuring continued access to the fishery and harvesting as a livelihood. Engaging with local youth on the mudflat creates an opportunity for deepened connections with the local ecosystem and introduces young people to a potential career opportunity. These events in combination with the number of current student licenses issued in Lubec are evidence of a commitment to ensuring future access to the livelihood of clam digging and the fishery overall. Lubec’s conservation events raise awareness of access issues within the fishery while also actively preserving, protecting, and expanding forms of access.

takeaways

The recent work in Lubec has been impacted by the pandemic, which led to delays in funding and approval, and the need to follow COVID protocols on the flats. However 2022 has been an active year. Members of the Shellfish Committee are committed to engaging youth as the next generation of harvesters.

timeline

Stay tuned for more timeline information.

  • May 2022

    Brushing and rocking at Mowry Beach

  • June 2022

    Green crab trap building and moon snail collar collection

  • July 2022

    ‘How to Dig Clams’ event

A harvester collecting moon snail collars at Seaview (Photo by Bridie McGreavy)

resources

Lubec Comprehensive Plan

“Lubec: A Border Town Shaped by the Sea,” by Jennifer Multhopp

“Clammers seek relief from predatory moon snails,” Bangor Daily News

“Climate change and predator control eyed at shellfish forum,” The Quoddy Tides