Commercial harvesters have dug for critters such as worms, clams and periwinkles on the mudflats around Acadia National Park for generations, and federal legislation moving through Congress would make sure they continue to do so.
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously signed off on a bill late Tuesday designed to allow harvesters of the worms — sold to sport fishermen — and other marketable species to continuing plying their trade near Acadia, Maine’s beloved island national park. The U.S. Senate has not yet voted on the issue.
In recent years, the harvesters have said they’ve faced enforcement from National Park Service personnel who have told them it’s prohibited.
Maine’s Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin proposed a bill last year that mapped the park’s boundaries and sought to protect the livelihoods of the harvesters.
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A similar bill has been proposed in the Senate by independent Sen. Angus King, but has yet to make it to a committee vote. Republican Sen. Susan Collins co-sponsored King’s bill, and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree co-sponsored Poliquin’s bill, meaning the drive to protect Acadia harvesters has the support of every member of Maine’s congressional delegation.
It also has the support of Friends of Acadia, a nonprofit conservation organization that advocates for the interest of the park, which is the sole national park in Maine and a major tourist destination for the state. Stephanie Clement, conservation director for the group, said the bill is important because it also affirms the donation of land at Schoodic Point to Acadia.
“And it reaffirms that the harvesting of clams and worms and periwinkles, that traditional harvesting activities, should be allowed and will be able to continue,” she said.
Poliquin said the full passage of the legislation would be a victory for traditional Maine industries.
“Acadia National Park has to live as a good neighbor,” he said.
Marine worm harvesting is a significant business in rural Maine, where the fishery for the wriggling critters was valued at about $7.5 million last year. The worms are harvested by hand with the use of a rake and are very popular as bait.