DNR officials ordered to draft plan on sizing hardshell clams Review panel issues ruling after watermen complain

October 19, 1997|By Michael S. Derby | Michael S. Derby,CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

ANNAPOLIS -- The Department of Natural Resources must come up with a new plan to determine the legal size limit of hardshell clams, a legislative review committee ruled last week.

The Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review Joint Committee took the action Thursday in light of complaints from watermen, said Del. John S. Arnick, a Baltimore County Democrat and chairman of the committee. He said another factor was Virginia's lack of restrictions on clam fishing and the competitive disadvantage that creates for Maryland anglers.

At issue is how to enforce a 30-year-old law prohibiting the fishing of clams smaller than 1 inch. Watermen have complained that measurement methods have varied among DNR officers.

Saying that regulations were unclear, several court cases in recent years exonerated fishermen of catching undersized clams, said Dave Blazer, a rule-making official with the DNR.

DNR fisheries expert Peter Jensen said those cases prompted the agency to issue a rule stating how the clams were to be measured -- not by the length of the flat part of the shell, as watermen prefer, but by clam thickness.

But waterman William Ryan told Arnick's committee, "This measurement doesn't work for us." Clams can't be measured accurately by their thickness because the dimension changes as the clam opens and closes its shell, he said.

Fines for undersized clams range from $90 to $510.

Pub Date: 10/19/97

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