, Newburyport, MA


October 22, 2013

Good sign for Merrimack River's health


“Massachusetts’ soft shell clam harvest is worth five to six million dollars annually and the opening of Joppa Flats will benefit commercial shell fishermen in the area who rely on open and productive flats for their livelihood,” said state Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin.

On the first day that Joppa Flats was opened, Newburyport harbormaster Paul Hogg sold 12 permits to clamdiggers, with many more expressing interest in buying licenses in the following days. One can only imagine the size and quantity of the clams they will find.

Even so, the clams are not pristine. They still must be run through the purification plant on Plum Island, where clean salt water is flushed through their bodies to remove any residual impurities. This is a common procedure for clams harvested in tainted areas.

The Merrimack still has a long way to go. Every time a rainstorm hits with .25 inches of rain or more, the clam beds — and river swimming — are closed. That’s because sewage treatment plants from the industrial cities are overwhelmed by stormwater, which then gets dumped into the river along with untreated sewage. It’s a problem that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fix.

Maybe someday it will be fixed. But for now, the Merrimack is showing great strides in the right direction.

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