Clammers worry as prices plummet

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Association members wait for response from Ottawa

Clammers worry as prices plummet

by Jeanne Whitehead

FOR THE SOU’WESTER

Transcontinental Media/The Digby Courier

Nova Scotia clammer Ken Weir says a recent day digging clams earned him $64.80. When he factors his expenses into the equation, his take-home pay for a day’s work was around $47.

Weir, who is spokesman for the Annapolis-Digby Clam Harvesters Association, says it’s impossible to earn a reasonable wage from clamming these days.

That comes on top of last year frequent beach closures in the Annapolis Basin. Beaches that weren’t closed because of pollution were overharvested. “We’re being starved out of our own industry,” says Weir.

This year, both the demand for clams and the price are extremely low. “We’re getting 90 cents a pound. We should be getting a dollar, a dollar twenty,” Weir says.

The clam harvesters association presented West Nova MP Greg Kerr with a proposal for rebuilding the local clam industry about six weeks ago and got a promise that he would take it to Ottawa.

The strategy developed by the clammers’ association notes that the town of Digby is working with Environment Canada to reduce and eventually eliminate the wastewater overflows that last year resulted in local beaches being closed 128 out of 261 days.

The paper proposes the creation of a testing group to ensure the results of water quality tests are accurate and readily available to stakeholders. The plan also proposes that the federal government pay clammers to do beach enhancement work that would increase clam stocks for present and futures seasons.

The paper states there is a need for a comprehensive plan to clean up the Annapolis Basin and to manage the industry with a goal of long-term sustainability.

Clam harvesters have not heard back from Kerr and most are getting discouraged.

Weir says he is looking at re-training and will probably be going back to school this fall. He would like to get into water testing, which means completing his grade 12 biology and chemistry –subjects he didn’t take while he was a high school student.

Still, Weir is in a better position than many of his colleagues. He, at least, has his high school diploma. “A lot of them started digging with their parents and dropped out of school. They figured they’d always be able to earn a good living digging clams.”

Organizations: Annapolis-Digby Clam Harvesters Association, Environment Canada

Geographic location: Ottawa, Annapolis Basin, Nova Scotia

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