Dartmouth to propose updated shellfishing regulations at Town Meeting

Oct 12, 2016

Shellfishing enforcement — including penalties and fines — could shift from state to town ownership if approved at Town Meeting.

Currently, the town uses state shellfishing regulations, but that means the state receives any fines collected. By enacting its own rules, the town would be able to collect fines instead, said Harbormaster Steve Melo.

At the October 18 Fall Town Meeting, members will vote to add noncriminal penalties to town by-laws, which currently lay out fines for violations such as littering, diving off of town bridges, and specific building violations.

Proposed fines would incur for harvesting on a closed day, using unauthorized tools for shellfishing, using SCUBA breathing gear in harvesting activities, and harvesting/landing seed shellfish or immature eels. Proposed penalties would range from $50 to $300, with additional fines on a per-animal basis.

Melo said the main reason for shellfish enforcement is in the interest of health, both for humans and the shellfish, not raising money through fines. When people harvest immature shellfish, or harvest in areas closed for health reasons, it threatens both human health and the health of Dartmouth’s waterways and marine life, he said.

“Our focus is on education,” Melo said. “If that doesn’t work, we resort to ticketing.”

Melo said that if the measure is not approved at Town Meeting, it would not mean Dartmouth would be without shellfishing penalties. Instead, the town would continue to use the state rules and the state would continue to collect fines.

Melo added that for the most part, shellfishing activity in Dartmouth has not been problematic.

“We’re not seeing any widespread abuse,” Melo said. “For the most part people are doing the right thing.”

The proposal is supported by both the Select Board and Finance Committee.