The municipal shellfish co-management system in Maine is based on a partnership between the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the more than 70 municipalities who have developed a shellfish ordinance and have decided to manage their shellfish resources within their towns.1 Please visit the DMR website for agency information about this program.

The municipal co-management program is important for several reasons. This system creates opportunities for people to meet with each other, discuss problems and solutions, and build capacity to adapt in the face of many different types of changes and challenges. For example, municipal shellfish committees led multiple efforts to try to understand and find solutions to the dramatic increases in green crab populations in 2013.2 The clam fishery is the only commercial fishery in Maine that is managed at the community level. Within this system, municipalities are able to set specific regulations (that fall within state law) through a town shellfish conservation ordinance such as size limits, conservation closures, limiting the number of shellfish harvesters, and restricting the time and area where digging is permitted. The DMR supports these efforts, along with monitoring for water quality changes and instituting water quality closures. Please see our water quality decision support tree for more information about this program.

Photo Courtesy of Sean Smith

Coastal Municipalities

More than 70 different coastal communities have local shellfish ordinances. Each of these ordinances is unique, and allows for the adaptability of management for that specific location. For more information about these ordinances, please see this DMR webpage.

Maine Clam Handbook

The Maine Clam Handbook (1998) is a community guide developed by the Maine Sea Grant program, the Maine State Planning Office, and Maine Department of Marine Resources. This guide was created to provide important information for community shellfish management programs and other stakeholders. You can download the Maine Clam Handbook here.

At the 2019 Shellfish Focus Day, Maine Sea Grant announced the publication of an updated version of this handbook, now titled the Maine Shellfish Management Handbook. The updated handbook has not yet been released, but please stay tuned for updates here and reach out to Maine Sea Grant if you have questions about the status of this handbook.


  1. McGreavy, B., Randall, S., Quiring, T., Hathaway, C., & Hillyer, G. (2018). Enhancing adaptive capacities in coastal communities through engaged communication research: Insights from a statewide study of shellfish co-management. Ocean and Coastal Management. 163(1), 240-253,
  2. McClenachan, L., O’Connor, G., & Reynolds, T. (2015). Adaptive capacity of co-management systems in the face of environmental change: the soft-shell clam fishery and invasive green crabs in Maine. Marine Policy52, 26-32.