Shellfish Commission considers fall GSP reseeding

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 5:45pm

Seeding the Great Salt Pond with hard shell clams is normally a spring event, but the Shellfish Commission is considering making it a fall event as well. The clams used to seed the pond in the spring are of harvestable size, but obtaining them can sometimes be a challenge. There are several variables in the equation — water temperatures and the availability of stock from seed growers being just two.

By seeding the pond in the fall, the clams used could be smaller, allowing them to grow out to harvestable size by the time tourists return for the summer. It could also be advantageous for the suppliers who may not have enough seed to go around in the spring.

“I think it’s worth a phone call,” said Harbormaster Steve Land to the four members of the Shellfish Commission who were present at their meeting on Tuesday Sept. 9.

That general lack of availability was also a problem this year for the Shellfish Commission and Harbors Department’s other project — growing out their own baby clams in the town-owned upweller. Seed for that did not arrive until August although it was hoped that it would arrive sometime in June.

That leaves the department with a problem: a lack of hired hands to maintain the upweller. The seasonal shellfish wardens are done for the summer and Head Shellfish Warden Nancy Ziomek will be leaving soon. Ongoing maintenance of the upweller includes regular scrubbing of the mesh, which gets fouled with baby mussels, crabs, and fish eggs, a task that Land said he and others had performed earlier that day.

Shellfish Commission member George Davis asked how much longer the clams would need to be housed in the upweller. Land responded that it would be a “few more weeks.”

After that, the clams will be removed to a “nursery” where they will continue to grow. The location will be kept a secret and Davis and commission member Ray Boucher volunteered to assist in the tending of them.

“If you want to do another project,’ said Land, “you could try soft shell (clams) again.” Past efforts to seed soft shell clams have been largely unsuccessful and the taking of them from the Great Salt Pond has been prohibited for the past few years. Land suggested that the seeding of soft-shell clams could be done in the summer when there was “more muscle,” meaning workers, around to help.

“People want it,” said Chair Joe Fallon.

It was suggested that soft shell clams could perhaps be “incubated” successfully in the upweller, which led to a more general discussion of the “future of the upweller.”

“It is labor intensive,” said Land, adding that “the kids like it. It’s good PR and educational.”

“What can we do to help and make sure upwelling is supported?” asked Davis.

Land said that the ordering of seed was somewhat burdensome for his department, involving “lots of phone calls.” He explained that up until a few years ago ordering seed was something that members of the Shellfish Commission had done. Currently it is done by Ziomek. “I don’t mind handing that torch back,” said Land.

“It sounds like Nancy needs help,” said Davis, again volunteering his services.

“Working together will give us better success,” said Land.

It was then that pagers started going off and Land was called off to go rescue a person on a jet-ski that had broken down “halfway to the green can,” or about a half mile off of Crescent Beach. He returned about 45 minutes later, reporting that the jet ski had been towed in with the New Harbor pump-out boat, and the operator was safe.

In the meantime, the Shellfish Commission discussed wording for signage advising the general public on how to properly dispose of fish racks, and why. Throwing them back into the water is prohibited by town ordinance, and leads to oxygen depletion in the water, as well as providing a food source for pesky crabs.

“Proper disposal” was also up for debate with the suggestion that fish racks may be used in some future composting program instead of being simply disposed of in the trash. “They need to be willing to pick it up daily,” said Boucher regarding the composting idea, warning that the skeletons deteriorate rapidly and can attract maggots.

How much and what exact language to use will be up for future discussion. “Really the key thing is for next year,” said Davis.

If anyone is interested in volunteering on the Shellfish Commission, there is an opening. Fallon read a letter of resignation from member Paige Gaffett who, while she wrote that she had enjoyed her time on the commission, simply did not have the time to continue.