To: Commissioner Ronald Amidon, Mass Department of Fish and Game
Thank you for meeting with the NSRWA, Senator Patrick O’Connor, Representative Patrick Kearney, and local recreational shellfishermen and women who have been impacted by the 2020 and now 2021 closure of shellfish beds in the North and South Rivers. We appreciate you agreeing to have your legal staff review the regulation of shellfishing separately from commercial shellfishing, similar to how recreational fishing or hunting is regulated.
Shellfishing is an aspect of our coastal heritage and the harvest of local, traditional food is important to our South Shore families and to the ongoing health of our rivers.
Improving water quality in the North and South Rivers estuary with the specific goal to keep the shellfish beds available for the public to harvest has been a decades-long goal and has led to large public investments in improving wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. The result of these public investments led to the re-opening of shellfish beds for recreational harvesting of “steamers” in the North River in 1996 and the South River in 2011. Water sampling in the rivers has shown that the rivers meet the state’s shellfishing water quality standards from November 1 – May 31st. Changing to a new standard that is meant to apply to commercial shellfishing denies the public the right to recreationally harvest their local shellfish, not because of known contamination, but because of the potential for contamination seems overly risk-averse and unbalanced. The ability to recreationally shellfish is integral to maintaining the public’s investment in keeping “our waters clean enough to eat from”.
We the undersigned support the reopening of the shellfishing beds to recreational shellfishing in the North and South Rivers.