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Town Seal
Town Hall Photo
Chatham Town Office
549 Main Street,
Chatham, MA 02633

PH: 508-945-5100
FAX: 508-945-3550
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Frequently Asked Questions Re Shellfish Permits
MOST OFTEN ASKED
SHELLFISH QUESTIONS

COMMERCIAL SHELLFISH LICENSES:

Fees:   $200 regular;
$100 junior (age 13 by May 31st  through senior year in high school)
$  50 senior (over 70)
The term of a commercial license is from May 1 through April 30.  One can apply (or renew) only during the months of April and May of each year.  The applicant must be a year-round resident of Chatham (proof must be shown) and must have been here one full year as a full-time resident prior to obtaining a commercial license.  (If you have not been here one full year by April or May, you may still apply during April or May and if approved, your license cannot be picked up or used until such date as constitutes one year of residency.)    A commercial license is for one person only and cannot be used by anyone else, including any family members.  A commercial license must be carried by the permit holder with identification at all times.

FAMILY SHELLFISH LICENSES:

Fees: $25 resident; $10 senior (over 70—must be resident or property owner in Chatham)
$80 non-resident

Family licenses may be purchased anytime after May 15th of each year and are good from June 1 through May 30.   The Shellfish Department asks that each family keep track of their catch of shellfish on the reverse of the license and turn this catch report in at the end of each term.
        
WHO MAY USE MY FAMILY SHELLFISH PERMIT?
Immediate members of family only: this means husband, wife, and children under the age of 21 living with and supported by the permit holder on a year-round basis.  No friends or other relatives (including grandchildren) may shellfish on your license.  

WHAT KIND OF IDENTIFICATION DO I NEED?
Permit holders must carry their shellfish permits on their persons when shellfishing as well as a picture identification.  A photocopy of your driver’s license is acceptable.  Permits and identification must be shown when requested by Shellfish Constables.  Constables shall also check size and quantity of shellfish.

WHAT TOOLS CAN I USE TO SHELLFISH WITH?
Shellfishing can be done by long-rake, scratcher, tong or clam-hoe only.  No shovels, pitchforks, garden spades, etc. are allowed.  
        

HOW DO I MEASURE?
Quahaugs must be one (1) inch in shell thickness or hinge width as measured by 1" measuring device.
Softshell clams and mussels must be two (2) inches long, or longer.  A two-inch ring for measuring must be used by permit holder.
In season only:
Oysters must be three (3) inches long, or longer.  A three-inch ring for measuring must be used by permit holder.
Scallops must be adult scallops with a well-defined growth ring or raised annulus.
Sea clams must measure 5" in length.

All shellfish shall immediately be culled when harvested (i.e. measured before putting in your basket), and all seed shellfish immediately returned alive to the coastal waters and flats whence taken.

No person shall take, or have in their possession, any of the following:  seed clams, seed oysters, seed scallops, seed quahaugs, seed mussels, seed sea clams.

HOW DOES THE SHELLFISH WARDEN INSPECT MY CATCH?
Any shellfish you have in your basket or pail is your legal catch, so be sure to measure each piece before you put it in the basket.  

HOW MUCH CAN I TAKE?
The holder of a family shellfish permit (resident or non-resident) may take up to a total of
32 quarts in any one week but may not take more than 12 quarts of any one species.***

For instance, you may take any of the following until it adds up to 32 quarts:
(1) one 12-quart pail of softshell clams
(2) one 12-quart pail of quahaugs
(3) one 12-quart pail of mussels,
(4) one 12-quart pail of oysters (in season only from Sept. 1 through April 30).
(5) one 32 qt. basket of scallops (in season only from Nov. 1 through March 31st).

with the total catch not exceeding one bushel (32 quarts) in any one week (Sunday through the following Saturday).
 
***During scallop season (from November 1 through March 31), up to one bushel
(32 quarts) of scallops may be taken per week but your total catch (including #1-5 above) may not exceed (32 quarts).  
        
ARE THERE ANY SHELLFISH AREAS CLOSED?
Areas closed are posted on the bulletin board at the Permit Department, Town Hall, and the Town Pier.  Signs are posted in areas of closure but occasionally disappear, so you must be aware of closures.