Clam aid: Freeport council delays appropriation
FREEPORT — The town's shellfish industry will have to wait until the April 2 Town Council meeting to have money approved for a program aimed at re-establishing clams in the area.
The program is part of the town's effort to bolster the shrinking clam population.
But councilors on Tuesday postponed the item after an hour-long discussion, and directed the Shellfish Commission to look into hiring a project manager to help create a more detailed plan.
Approval of the plan will help the town buy $60,500 worth of equipment needed to help trap and fence green crabs, while also evaluating the impact.
Green crabs, which eat young clams known as spat, are an invasive species that has grown at an alarming rate in the last couple decades due increases in water temperatures. In previous decades, winters with extended cold periods kept the crab population at bay.
The equipment expense is part of a council action last year that dedicated $100,000 to help study and preserve the town's shellfish.
The largest chunk of the spending will go toward 200 crab traps, which cost a total of $14,000. Other items include paying for rope, fencing, bait, maintenance and transportation.
If the council approves the expense, the town will have spent or allocated about $92,000 of the Shellfish Restoration account set up to help fund the endeavor.
In February, the Shellfish Commission hired a consultant to conduct a comprehensive survey of the clam flats and develop an action plan based on the findings. The council approved $20,000 last December, which was half of a grant fulfilled by the Department of Conservation, Agriculture and Forestry.
One of the major efforts of the study is to determine if defensive trapping of green crabs is an effective method of keeping their populations in check and to see if it has a measurable impact on the clam population.
In addition to trapping green crabs, the study will also look at the best ways to mitigate ocean acidification, another leading culprit in the decline of clam populations.