Clams, Economic Vitality and Land Use

Picture of clam harvester digging on clam flatShellfish harvesting significantly contributes to the economy of Washington County.  Clams are the second most valuable wild marine resource in Maine, behind lobsters.  

In 2014, roughly 640 people, or 40% of shellfish harvesters in Maine, derived income from clamming in Washington County. 

During the period of 2009-2015, softshell clam landings in Washington County amounted to approximately $3,138,650 in earnings, with 2,246,883 pounds harvested countywide.

According to 2011-2015 DMR research, Jonesport, Beals, and Milbridge were among the top ten ports in Maine by ex-vessel value.

The Economic Value of Clamming in Washington County includes the following:

For research and data on commercial fisheries in Washington County, visit the Department of Marine Resources Commercial Landings page.

Clam flat closures devastate local economies, with a crippling affect going far beyond just the individuals who harvest clams on a full- or part-time basis. For example, a week-long closure in August would eliminate $1.8 million in harvester sales and a total economic loss of $2.9 million for Maine's economy (in 2006 dollar values), according to research prepared by Dr. Kevin Athearn of the University of Maine at Machias. 

We all can take actions to ensure access to safe seafood and a healthy economy for harvesters.

Learn how WCCOG is helping to expand rain gauge data collection to reduce unnecessary closures from flooding due to rainfall. 

The WCCOG is also working with the University of Maine Machias to demonstrate integration of rainfall-related closure information, currently provided in PDF format, into real time online GIS mapping systems for use by shellfish harvesters in the field.  Click here to learn more about the Machias Bay Initiative.


This graph depicts 7-year average landings for most towns in Washington County.


While landing sizes declined in Maine as a whole since 2011, overall dollar value increased.  Meanwhile, quantities and prices both increased in Washington County in recent years.


License numbers have remained relatively steady in Washington County bays, except for Cobscook Bay where we have seen a dramatic increase since 2009.

Washington County Clam Landings in earlier years: 2012, 20112010, 2009, 2008, 2007

Clam Landings (Live Pounds and Value) 2007-2013 for specific towns: