Handbook Supports Stewardship of Maine's Vital Shellfish Resources

With a landed value of over $24 million in 2020, Maine's shellfish resources are a critical part of Maine's coastal economy. But changing ocean temperatures, shellfish predation, land use, and fluctuating markets pose threats to the industry that relies on sustainable management of this vital resource.

The recently published Maine Shellfish Handbook provides a comprehensive resource to help managers at the local and state level sustain Maine's valuable shellfish resources.

The handbook, published collaboratively by the Maine Department of Marine Resources, Maine Sea Grant, and the University of Maine, updates previous guidance that focused on clams to include information on the history and biology not only of the soft-shell clam but also of northern quahog, American and European oysters, and blue mussels.

Sections on state resources to address water quality issues and predatory species have been added, as well as information about tools that municipalities can use to preserve or increase their intertidal shellfish resources.

The handbook is organized into five chapters, beginning with a review of the management system, including state and municipal responsibilities.

The publication points out that management authority for soft-shell clams is shared between the state government and municipalities and provides guidance on establishing a municipal shellfish program.

The document also describes relevant aspects of shellfish biology and supplies a municipal shellfish "toolbox" with advice about how to conduct shellfish surveys, protect and enhance shellfish stocks, deal with predators, and how environmental changes impact the resources.

The publication concludes with a call for broad-based engagement in shellfish management and encourages partnerships necessary to sustain Maine's vital shellfish resources.

The publication can be found at https://seagrant.umaine.edu/resource/the-maine-shellfish-handbook/ and at https://www.maine.gov/dmr/shellfish-sanitation-management/index.html