The sea drives truth
into a man like salt
One of the many important roles of the
Natural Resources Department is to protect the environment for clams. This
includes defending the harmful effects to the historic shellfish flats by
dredging or invasion of docks, etc.. In many cases
these impacts can be mitigated, while in other more valuable locations,
dredging must be prohibited. The Town has significant limitations on the actual
area of quality hard bottom that is available for natural set. Removal of
sand/gravel from the shoreline leads to the void being replaced by silty mud
which is not conducive to the settlement of shellfish. The Harwich Protective
By-Law is in place to help answer many of these issues for members of the
Waterways and Conservation Commission. However, their decisions can be
appealed. It is often the Natural Resources Departments job to be the eye
witness and regularly consulted in such environmental legal cases.
It's been more than a decade since Harbormaster
Tom Leach and Donald Ryder cobbled together some leftover PVC pipe and a few
planks of wood from the highways and maintenance department and built the
town's first shellfish laboratory at Wychmere Harbor. This upweller system
continues as a key factor in maintaining recreational and commercial
shellfishing here in Harwich.
The Northern Quahog "littleneck" is the mainstay of
heavily supplements the fishery by restocking beds from the Shellfish
Laboratory. Click to see our slideshow.Tide video Jackknife Harbor and Bay Road Beach.
· Round Cove Sea Lettuce Harvest
· Harwich Shellfish & Marine Water Quality
Air TemperatureChatham Airport
· Barnstable County Marine Program
LIMIT: one (1) ten quart pail for the week
AREA MAPS (subject to
Bay Harwich (outside of Round Cove)
Herring River to north of Rte 28
Bridge up to Smith Street
The south side of Allen Harbor
including the arm of Oyster Creek and all sides of entrance channel
Nantucket Sound beaches
including Pleasant Road Beach and outside Red River (in Nantucket Sound)
Saquatucket Harbor (within
Red River to where it
meets Nantucket Sound (including all backwater marshes)
North side of Allen Harbor including Yacht Club and Marina Lower Cty Road Bridge and marshes
Muddy Creek west of
Heinz Proft, Environmental Science
Director and Natural Resources Officer, heads up the Harwich shellfish &
herring run enforcement team which includes three deputy wardens and four
deputy herring supervisors.
you must carry or wear your permit and may be asked to present a photo ID by
Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr... It will be cold soon.....
Temperature Restriction: Dry digging quahogs and dry
taking of soft-shell clams shall not be allowed when the
shaded air temperature falls below 30° F (-10°C). All holes
shall be filled and seed clams replanted with the "neck" of
the clam up at the time and place where dug. The restriction
for all sub-tidal shellfish harvesting shall take effect when
the shaded air temperature falls below 25°F (-3.9°C).
lab itself is located in a tiny, town-owned shed on the edge of Wychmere
Harbor. Within its walls is a complex maze of pipes that pump nutrient-rich
water into a series of color-coded silos with screens on the bottom. Each
color represents a different batch of seedling clams. Every other day,
interns or volunteers hose down the tanks, washing them out with freshwater.
"They can survive up to 24 hours out of saltwater," Ben Latimer
says as he sprays down a silo with a hose. "They lock up."
year, Latimer, Liam Thomson and Matthew Brown, all 15, have been overseeing
the lab's 2.4 million clams under the guidance of Robert Smeltzer. Smeltzer,
a Latin teacher at Harwich High
School, has been involved in the shellfish lab
program for three years. "I was intrigued with the whole process,"
he says as the saltwater spray of the nearby harbor fills the lab. "Even
after three years, I always find something new." Smeltzer's charges admit that they were not fully
aware of the scope of their responsibilities when they signed on for the
internships. "I thought it would be boring," Liam says, adding that
he quickly discovered that the work easily beat out his other summer
employment in terms of interest. "It's a lot better than any grocery
cleaning the tanks, the trio records the water temperature every weekday, as
well as the water's salinity, dissolved oxygen level and the growth rate of
the clams. The group has visited the Aquacultural
Research Center in North Dennis that supplied many of the lab's seedlings,
and takes regular boat trips out to Nantucket Sound to take readings outside
of the laboratory environment. "Once they have a good feel of the lab,
they run it on their own with the teacher/ supervisor," Proft says.
"They decide how they clean and drain and take care of the lab."
The work will serve Matthew Brown well: he has volunteered with the water
monitoring committee to help collect data for John Joseph Pond. The three
young men have also been able to see the future fruits of their labor, visiting
Round Cove and doing some clamming. "We went out and dug up 85 clams, 80
of which were legal sized," Matthew says, noting that the students
returned all of the clams to the shellfish beds. "I had never done it
students also serve as stand-by tour guides from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.,
and have walked more than 100 visitors through the laboratory this summer
alone. Early in the summer, the question on everyone's minds is the same:
Where are the clams? "They think it's
sand," Matthew says of the tiny seedlings. Proft says that the infant
shellfish measure between 1 and 3 millimeters when they arrive in the lab. By
the time they are released in October, they can measure upward of 12 to 15
millimeters. Ensuring that each clam has sufficient food has been a case of
science and art, along with some trial and error, over the past decade. Proft
recalls that in 1998, the lab hosted 6 million seedlings. But because they
had to share a finite amount of food, the clams generally did not grow as large
as hoped. "The larger the seed, the better the chance of survival in the
wild," he says. "How many you start with hinges on how big you want
them to grow."
year, the lab is home to 2.4 million clams, which appears to be a good
number, according to their hosts. The young men also have to occasionally
provide definitions of little necks and quahogs. For many visitors, a clam is
a clam is a clam. But the students seem to enjoy sharing their knowledge.
"They are glad to have the opportunity to be a part of this," Smeltzer says, adding that
although many interns would like to return for a second year, the program
enlists new students each year to maximize participation. "These kids go
back and tell others. It's messy and dirty, but that's the only downside.
Most of them are fascinated by the entire process." He adds that the
program also connects students to where they live, and helps them learn not
to take the area's natural resources for granted.
the internship concludes, volunteers will continue overseeing the program
through late October or early November, when the seedlings will be
distributed throughout Harwich's waterways, including Allen Harbor, Oyster
Creek, Herring River, Wychmere Harbor, Round Cove and Pleasant Bay.
Approximately 1,000 of the more immature seedlings may get a warm winter's
vacation. For the past few years, Proft has been working with Harwich High
School biology teacher Troy Hopkins to keep a fraction of the shellfish alive
in the school's greenhouse. Although the program has yet to succeed, Proft
says that each year brings them closer to figuring out the right balance to
keep the shellfish alive. For the clams heading to shellfish beds, Proft says
it will take approximately two years before the shellfish reach the legal taking
size of 1-inch thick. Although each lab clam bears a distinctive identifying
ring around the lip of the shell, Proft says that it is tough to assess just
how valuable the program has been to local fishermen over the years.
value to the interns is easier to ascertain. "When they're asked about
unique experiences or a role where they were entrusted with responsibility,
this experience stands out quite a bit," Proft says. "It is very
hands-on. You are constantly learning something."