The Maine coastline has food resources ripe for picking, as long as you follow the rules

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Maine has a rich coastline with many resources that are ripe for the picking.

Searching for shellfish and plants along the coast is a great way to eat truly local, but there are certain regulations – and basic etiquette – that pickers must follow.

Tony Sutton, community feeding facilitator at the Maine Shellfish Learning Network, has been researching clams – otherwise known as “clams” – for about five years.

“On my 30th birthday we were camping along the coast and decided to try manual traction. We picked up enough for a meal and these freshly steamed clams eaten right next to the apartment [where] they were dug forever changed my life.

Sutton said clam fishing has become both a special family activity and a way to connect with Passamaquoddy culture.

“The Passamaquoddy have been digging clams for food for millennia,” Sutton said. “So for us, picking is our way of connecting through the generations to who we are in the world, as well as having delicious food to eat at a meal or at a party. “

However, coastal foraging doesn’t end with clams. Jeff Nichols, director of communications at the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said non-commercial fishermen can choose from a variety of species, including scallops, mussels, crabs, periwinkles and even lobsters if you have the flexibility. good equipment.

Foraging for seashells and other coastal creatures is a little different from foraging for, say, mushrooms in that there are additional rules and regulations for certain species. To harvest certain species such as lobsters and scallops, even if you don’t plan on selling them, you still need a non-commercial permit from the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR).

“For some species there is a license exemption as long as the fisherman limits their catch below a certain amount,” Nichols said. “For example, a person can take up to two bushels of mussels a day without having to have a permit. “

Coastal foragers should also check with the municipality where they plan to hunt. Nichols explained that municipalities with shellfish ordinances can establish their own management measures to protect and support the resource in their municipality, including license limits and conservation closures.

“While no state license is required for recreational shellfish harvesting, some municipalities require a municipal license for recreational harvesting,” Nichols said. “We recommend that those interested in harvesting shellfish in a community with a shellfish ordinance contact the municipal office in that community to confirm the need for a recreational fishing license and to obtain additional information on their ordinance. on the conservation of molluscs. “

Coastal seafood collectors also need to consider pollution risks.

“Diseases caused by marine biotoxins commonly found in Maine such as paralyzing shellfish poisoning and amnesic shellfish poisoning, as well as marine bacterial diseases such as vibriosis, are serious conditions that can be fatal, ”Nichols said.

Nichols said the Maine DMR regularly posts information about closures related to pollution and biotoxins on its website, and that pickers should make sure to check and track closures as they occur. .

Tim Sheehan, president and co-founder of Gulf of Maine Inc., said that during his years of experience in commercial and recreational harvesting, the best thing to do when you are not sure you have the right things to do. good documents is to call your local maritime patrol.

Sheehan pointed out that there are edible plants along the coast that foragers can also watch out for, such as sea asparagus and seaweed.

As with any foraging, make sure you don’t take on too much no matter what you pick up along the coast (except, perhaps, for the invasive green crabs, which Sheehan says make a delicious stock. of crab and are “really easy” to pick up by bucket).

Once you have the proper papers and know the local ordinances, you can don a pair of sturdy rubber boots, grab a five gallon bucket, and set out to search for food.

“What I love about it is how easy it is to get in there,” Sutton said. “You just need a recreation permit, boots and a shovel. “


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