A Resource to Protect: The Environment
In order to decrease the possibility of overfishing, strict regulations prohibit clam diggers from harvesting young clams.
“Now, you don’t take baby anything in nature, is that correct? You wait till it grows, you wait till it gets to be mature, no matter what it is. So the state has set a law that a clam has to be 2 inches from here to here in order to be legal, just to protect the industry, because it is actually like farming. So, you can get a ring like this, which is actually an official ring that was handed down to me by my grandfather. Now if this clam won’t go through this ring, he’s big enough. So, you can always check with this because you don’t want to have small clams - because, if the clam warden finds you with more than 5% of these, then you can have your license taken away, you can take a fine, you have to go to court, and it’s serious business. Plus, the humiliation, you’d be embarrassed, you’d be humiliated to have your name in the papers because you got caught digging small clams, cause there’s no reason to.” - Leonard Woodman
“Conning the Clam Constable”
From Franklyn Goucher’s memoirs
The year 1933 was one of a period of clamless years for Essex when the flats all over the river were barren. The WPA was in operation at that time; and seventeen of the local clammers were engaged in a project of digging clam seed at Salem Willows and transporting it back to the Essex flats where they plowed it back in. They did this for a period of months and pretty well filled up a large clam flat.
The following spring the seed clams had grown some, when one day, Chubby Woodman came up river and informed the shellfish constable, Jesse Fuller, that the flat had been dug on the night before, obviously using lights.
The three shellfish constables went down river the next three nights and waited some hours; but no one showed up. The fourth night they didn’t go down; and the next day showed more of the flat dug.
This went on for a period of time. Every night the constables waited, no one appeared; every night they failed to go down river, more of the flat got dug.
The flat was finally opened so all the clammers could get their share.
A few days later, one of the clammers commented to Hermy Comeau, “I’d like to know who was digging nights down here!” “Well,” Hermy said, “George Ball and I did.” The other clam digger said, “How did you know what nights to come down and what nights to stay home? “Oh,” Hermy said, we used to go up to Gamage’s Hill just before ten o’clock and watch across the marsh where the constable's bedroom is. If the light went on, we knew he was going to bed; so it was safe to go down and dig clams.”