A Resource to Protect: The Consumer
Since the 1940s, the federal and state governments have worked together to create and enforce policies governing the shellfish industry. At the city level, a shellfish constable monitors man-made and ecological threats. Often a former clam digger, the constable must balance concerns for the species, the people who work in the industry, and consumers.
"The most important thing that we have to do here in Gloucester is we have to provide sufficient patrols for what are considered conditionally approved shell fishing areas that are next to prohibited shell fishing areas, to make sure that clams that are in prohibited areas aren’t commercially harvested and put on the market. Also, on a daily basis, a twenty-four-hour shellfish hotline needs to be monitored and updated. If I’m informed that there’s a sewer outbreak, or if a boat has discharged either oil or sanitary sewage, or if there’s been a red tide, or rain action, or a number of other things that could close an area, we have to immediately close that area. Which means updating that message machine, posting the area, and if somebody’s in that area to remove them from that area and confiscate their shellfish.
The federal government has regulations regarding shellfish. It’s regulated through the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference, through something that’s called the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. And it requires all states to make sure that shellfish are safe if they’re going to be on the market, because it’s a food product. And so, I have to enforce state laws and regulations that mirror federal regulations and requirements. We also have local laws and regulations, and my assistant and I are really the only ones that can enforce those local laws or regulations.” - Dave Sargent
"I was always a shellfish commissioner in town. You know, it was always my love and my secondary job. There’s a board of three shellfish commissioners. And we — the Selectmen, by the way, run the clam flats, by Chapter 130 in the Massachusetts General Laws, Selectmen have complete say over the clam flats. However, the shellfish commissioners advise the Selectmen. We’ll make up articles for the Town Warrant for money and all that sort of thing. So there’s three commissioners; each one is elected each year. The state says we must have a constable in town to protect the flats and propagate the flats, or we can’t dig clams." - Jack Grundstrom