Clammers Worried About Impact After Harvesting Grounds Closed Off

clams clam

(Ivan/Getty Images)

NEW BEDFORD (WBZ-AM) -- The New England Fisheries Management Council has approved a conservation measure aimed at protecting certain fish species--but South Coast clammers say it could put them out of business.

The decision sees the region's three most profitable clam areas off Nantucket Sound off-limits come April. Those areas account for between 80 and 95 percent of surf-clammers' harvests.

Monty Rome, GM of Intershell International and owner of three clam vessels, told WBZ NewsRadio's Kendall Buhl that this spells the end of the clamming industry in New Englan, and with it, he says, go some 1,000 jobs.

"Say goodbye to clam chowder," he said.

Rome pointed out that the fish the measure is meant to protect live in rocky areas--not the fine sand beds that provide habitats for clams. He said clammers' footprint is miniscule, and they don't damage the ocean habitats.

"They're making decisions not based on science, they're making decisions based on, really nothing. On want. They want to do this, so they're gonna do it," Rome said. "They had no concept or concern at all about how many jobs are going to be affected."

What's more, Rome said, not even the clams will benefit. Past experience has shown that when clam populations proliferate, the bivalves end up starving.

Clamming makes up a relatively small portion of the activity in New Bedford, the nation's busiest commercial fishing port--but Mayor John Mitchell said it's going to be a tough Christmas for hundreds that make up the industry.

Mitchell said the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, did not properly explore the impact on jobs.

"There wasn't enough time, to my view, for NOAA to assess the economic implications of that decision, as they are required to do under the Magnussen-Stevens Act," he said.

WBZ NewsRadio's Kendall Buhl (@KBuhlWBZ) reports

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