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Shellfish Permits available online at: https://falmouthstickers.townhall247.com
Town Clerk's Office,
59 Town Hall Square
Falmouth, MA 02540
Shellfish Permit Requirements
Go to: www.falmouthma.gov for open and closed areas and regulations
Show All Answers
General regulations are posted at Town Hall, Falmouth Main Public Library, East Falmouth Library, North Falmouth Library, and West Falmouth Library and online. Open shellfishing area lists are posted at Town Hall, Megansett Harbor Parking Lot, West Falmouth Harbor Boat Ramp, and Seapit Landing in Waquoit Bay. Shellfishing regulations, restrictions, and open shellfishing area lists including maps are available online.
Some areas are open and closed seasonally, while others are closed year-round, and few others are open year-round. The reasons for closures varies, but largely depends on the state-assigned classification. The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) classifies areas for shellfish harvest.
Growing area classifications are assigned based on the results of sanitary surveys. The classification determines whether or not shellfish in the area can be harvested for human consumption. In Massachusetts, there are five classifications:
Many areas in Falmouth are classified as CONDITIONALLY APPROVED, and these areas are typically closed during the warmer late spring to early fall months when these areas experience poor water quality, and open in the late fall to winter months.
Other reasons areas close seasonally include resource management closures, in which the Town closes an area that is otherwise open for natural resource enhancement.
Temporary emergency closures including rainfall closures are enacted by MA DMF. In these situations, the Town will update the open shellfishing areas to reflect this status.
Typically shellfish seeding occurs in the fall, when shellfish growth has slowed. Seeding areas vary year to year, based on natural resource needs.
Common seeding areas for oysters: West Falmouth Harbor Family Area
Common seeding areas for quahogs (hard clams): West Falmouth Harbor, Bournes Pond, Green Pond, Great Pond, Waquoit Bay, and Eel River
Common seeding areas for bay scallops: West Falmouth Harbor and Waquoit Bay
There is a fixed cap of 50 commercial shellfish permits issued to diggers.
When the cap has been reached, permits for the subsequent year will only be issued to current Falmouth commercial shellfish permit holders (renewed permits).
When the number of issued commercial shellfish permits falls below 50, the following method will be used to offer vacant permits (new permits) to the public:
• Student digger lottery held first (16-17 years old)
• General digger lottery held if 50 diggers is not reached in the student lottery
A scaled lottery system provides increased probability for selection with consecutive years of application to the lottery during years with vacancies.
At such time vacant permits become available and a lottery will be held, lottery applications and drawings will be publicly advertised on the Town website and in the Falmouth Enterprise.
Oysters can make for a delicious meal, but they can also carry harmful bacteria. Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp.) is a bacteria found in oysters that increases health risks. This bacteria can cause stomach pain or even be lethal. It is most common during warm summer months, when the bacteria can multiply. This high-risk timeframe in Massachusetts is from May to October.
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA DMF) works with Public Health to develop a Vp. Control Plan. The Vibrio Control Plan tracks the conditions of oyster harvests in Massachusetts. It also limits the post-harvest growth of Vp. in oysters. MA DMF regulates private oyster aquaculture growers, while Public Health regulates the dealers that buy from private oyster growers.
While the Vibrio Control Plan limits the post-commercial harvest growth of Vp. in oysters sold on the wholesale market, it is very difficult to impose similar restrictions to the recreational harvest of oysters. For this reason, the Town of Falmouth does not have an oyster fishery during the high-risk Vp. timeframe. The recreational oyster season in Falmouth varies year to year based on sufficient water quality parameters, with the opening of the season expected in mid-October to early November and ending in mid-March.
Per the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, no permit is required for the taking of blue crabs unless using SCUBA. There is a limit of 25 crabs/day. The minimum harvest size is 5 in shell width (spine to spine). Egg bearers cannot be taken. It is unlawful to fish for blue crabs by trap to retain blue crabs taken in a trap. Only actively tended gear may be fished for blue crabs.