BELFAST — A shellfish dealer facing multiple charges of possessing clams in violation of the state’s 2-inch clam law maintained Thursday that he was being caught in the middle of a situation that was not being satisfactorily regulated by the state.
Robert F. Young, 56, owner of Young’s Shellfish, also criticized the state for destroying the $3,800 shipment of clams instead of spreading them back on clam flats as seed.
Young will appear in 6th District Court at Wiscasset on April 3 to answer charges of 118 counts of possession of short clams, and 118 counts of violation of Maine shellfish regulations.
A shipment of 118 half-bushel boxes of clams with Young tags attached were seized last month by the Marine Patrol. The clams were aboard a truck at Waldoboro when they were intercepted by Officer Brian Tolman. An inspection of the clams revealed that 55 percent of them measured less than the mandatory 2 inches.
Tolman said Thursday that the minimum fine for possession of short clams, set by state statute, was $100. The maximum was $1,000. With 118 charges filed, Young faces a potential minimum fine of $11,800. The other charges concerning illegal tagging of the shipment does not carry a mandatory sentence, Tolman said.
The clams were disposed of at the Rockland transfer station, Tolman said, as they had tested below acceptable health levels. It was possible the clams had been dug from closed areas, the officer said, but there was no way to confirm that.
Young, however, discounted that theory. He said that although he had purchased the shipment unseen, he believed it came from open flats and was in good condition. He charged that it was more convenient for the Marine Patrol to dump the shipment rather than spread them out on flats.
“Even if only half of them had lived it would have been better than dumping them,” he said.
Young did not dispute that the shipment in question was his, or that it contained short clams. He said that he had purchased the shipment unseen from another dealer for shipment to out-of-state markets.
The Marine Patrol should be expending its efforts at curbing the illegal harvest of clams with the diggers, Young said. He pointed out that it took six officers two days to count the shipment. “I ship six to eight times that many a day,” Young said.
It would be impossible for a dealer to inspect the diggings of each clammer, Young said. “A dealer may be buying from 50 to 75 diggers a day. There’s no way he can measure them all,” Young said.
Young said he intended to tell his story to the judge who will hear his case in hopes of gaining a sympathetic ear. He already has suffered the punishment of losing the $3,800 shipment, plus the fact he now has several customers mad at him for failure to deliver the goods, he said.