WHITING (AP) – The red tide is taking a toll Down East, where more than 100 clam diggers have gone without income for seven weeks or more because of extended clam flat closures.

Stores and other businesses in the Cobscook Bay area are also feeling the pinch, and idled clam diggers are selling their personal belongings to tide them over.

The state Marine Resources Department banned the harvesting of clams, mussels and carnivorous snails in the Cobscook Bay area on July 14, and there appears little prospect of the flats opening anytime soon.

Red tide contains a neurotoxin that can cause fever, dizziness, nausea, paralysis and even death to people who eat infected shellfish. The toxin is harmless to shellfish.

Many clammers earn much of their revenue in summer to carry them over the winter. Dozens of clammers are considering appealing for financial assistance from the state Department of Labor, and are scheduled to meet Wednesday evening at the Whiting town hall to consider their options.

Larry Matthews, a shellfish buyers for Washington County’s unorganized territories, said he had been paying out between $2,500 and $3,500 a day to local diggers, seven days a week. But with the clam flats closed, that money isn’t circulating any more.

Calvin Preston, who runs a secondhand store along U.S. Route 1 in Dennysville, said he’s been deluged by calls from diggers eager to sell their household goods for cash.

“They’re selling motors from their boats, even the furniture from their houses,” Preston said.

“It’s ridiculous. They want to sell their kitchen stoves and everything. But I can’t buy everything, because nobody’s buying anything. I can only take on so much before I’m overstocked,” said Preston.

Unlike those who harvest worms for a living, clam diggers are generally restricted to working in the towns where they got their commercial licenses as residents.


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