WEST BATH, Maine — The New Meadows Lakes along the Brunswick border will be closed to quahog harvesting for the first three months of 2018 and on Sundays for the rest of the year in an effort to reduce mortality associated with winter fishing.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources instituted the rule, which prohibits fishing in New Meadows Lakes beginning at sunset on Dec. 31.
The Sunday closure will continue through April 2019.
According to a release from the department, recent surveys of the lakes by DMR staff have shown a decline in the quahog population.
The closure was proposed at meetings with fishermen held in the spring of this year.
At a public hearing in Bath in October, nine speakers opposed the proposed regulation and three supported it, according to meeting minutes.
“It seems like this is bureaucratic overreach trying to take money out of self-employed people’s hands,” Harrison Kemp reportedly said. “You want to close in winter because of stuff dying, fine. But a weekend closure won’t solve anything. You’re just digging deeper into people’s lives.”
But others, including Ray Trombley of Casco Bay Shellfish, said conservation is necessary to allow the resource to rest. Some said the New Meadows quahog catch has declined by two-thirds in recent years.
“I know the guys don’t like it, but this is an industry where if we don’t stop now we’re going to destroy it,” Trombley reportedly said, adding that the town of Brunswick closes quahog areas for the winter for conservation reasons. “I know a lot of guys need the work, but there are other jobs.”
“Quahogs are not that tolerant of harsh Maine winters,” Brunswick Marine Resources Officer Dan Devereaux said Wednesday. “What we have learned since quahogs became a prevalent species in Brunswick mudflats is closing during the winter helps prevent mortality by eliminating harvesting disturbances.”
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