Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2018

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marine Policy


Keith S. Evans

Second Committee Member

Bridie McGreavy

Third Committee Member

Joshua S. Stoll


Water quality issues have affected Maine’s soft-shell clam fishery which is of great significance to community livelihood, social employment and tourism. To ensure shellfish product safety for consumers, state government issues temporary closures on clam flats. As a result, access to this fishery resources has been decreased and has caused revenue losses to fishing communities. Despite the improvements in understanding the financial losses of shellfish closures, there is a lack of knowledge about stakeholder perceptions and actions under such impact.

This master’s thesis looked closely at the clam dealers across the supply chain and water quality management in the soft-shell clam fishery. I used a mixed-method case study approach to explore key stakeholder responses to and perceptions about shellfish management. On the qualitative side, I conducted semi-structured interviews with certified shellfish dealers in the fall, 2017 (n=9). I gathered quantitative dealer reports to explore interactions of dealers (n=61) with fishers concerning five different species during 2008-2014 in Downeast Maine. I compared the characteristics of the supply chain in Downeast Maine and Midcoast Maine. To understand the water quality management on paper and in practice, I collected policy documents and past stakeholder interview data.

In Chapter 2, I evaluated the supply chain structure and geographical scale in the soft-shell clam fishery and clam dealers’ daily trade performances. Results highlighted the differences of soft-shell clam supply chain geographical scales between Midcoast and Downeast Maine in terms of the upstream sources and downstream outlets of the clams. In terms of the trade interactions, I found high loyalty in harvesters when choosing how many dealers to sell their landings to.

In Chapter 3, I examined the water quality management through policy documents and stakeholder interviews. It demonstrated the top-down direction of policy implementation from federal to municipal level. Stakeholder interviews showed high diversity in terms of perceptions about pollution issues, water quality management, policy compliance and adaptations during closures. Results also revealed the lack of municipal participation in the management, leading to limited room for adaptations in different water quality conditions.

The results of this study underlined the importance to understand the supply chain in the fishery to inform shellfish management from market perspectives. The complexity of stakeholder perceptions advocates for more active participation of municipalities in the water quality management to enable adaptations during temporary closures.