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March 22, 2013

Shellfish regulation changes on the table

ESSEX — In the town that claims it was where the fried clam was invented, officials are eyeing changes to the shellfish regulations, including license fees, family license uses and stipulations about when clams can be left out to self bury.

The town’s shellfish constable, William Knovak has proposed the changes to selectmen, who have the power to adopt the new regulations.

Selectmen decided to come up with drafts of the proposed changes during a recent meeting, to see what they would look like on paper.

One change would increase the license fee from $300 to $500 — but only if clam harvesters seeking a annual license did not do 10 hours worth of volunteer work that would reseed and conserve the shellfish population.

Another proposed regulation would grant a family use license only if the person seeking it is not a town resident and does not hold a commercial clam license in any other Massachusetts community.

Knovak said this is a problem in Essex as several license holders have more than one permit.

The third addition would aim to stop anyone from leaving a clam on the flat to self bury if the outside temperature is less than 28 degrees; any unharvested clams would be required to be carefully reburied if the air is too cold. Knovak said Thursday if clams are left on flats in cold weather, the water running through a clam’s neck will freeze and kill it.

“It’s just not a good environment,” he said.

While Knovak said the town does not have a large supply of oysters compared to Ipswich, a fourth regulation change, the ban of oyster harvesting for commercial purposes, would help preserve their numbers.

Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki made it clear that these proposed changes are still in the drafting stage.

James Haskell of the Shellfish Advisory Commission said the group is still deciding whether or not to recommend any of the proposed changes to selectmen.

Selectmen are set to discuss the proposed changes again at their next meeting, set for Monday, March 25, at 7 p.m. at TOHP Burnham Library.

Knovak said having regulations adopted is a give and take process.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Haskell said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3455 or

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