Beal says closing clam flats 'akin to doing nothing'
A University of Maine researcher studying the decline of soft-shell clams in Casco Bay has found an effective way to protect clam populations, but is struggling to capture the attention of diggers.
Brian Beal, a professor of marine ecology at the University of Maine at Machias, is going from town to town along Casco Bay presenting research, insights and strategies into the ways that clammers can protect and restore soft-shell clam populations.
Beal’s latest findings – collected from field experiments in Freeport’s Harraseeket Bay – suggest that predation is the defining cause of decline among soft-shell clam populations.
He called it a “double-pronged” problem: invasive Japanese green crabs crush the clams’ shells, and milky ribbon worms, which live in the mud, attack the clams from below.
His findings also disprove the reasoning behind the municipal enforcement of conservation closures, where towns close off clam flats in the hope that time will replenish clam populations.
Beal called the action “akin to doing nothing” or “praying to the zooplankton gods.”