Waterford - The local shellfish commission is calling for the state to add resources to the agency that oversees shellfishing after a lack of staffing resulted in shellfishing closures throughout the state on the Fourth of July.
J. Patrick Kelly, co-chairman of the Waterford-East Lyme Shellfish Commission, said his commission has continually experienced problems with the state Bureau of Aquaculture, an agency within the Department of Agriculture.
The state agency tests water and meat samples from local shellfishing areas. Kelly said after heavy rainfall closed areas locally on June 25, they were not reopened for more than 10 days because mandatory testing was delayed at the state lab.
"We've had problems with the staffing, and the lab has more work than they've had historically," Kelly said. "It's causing us to be closed more than we're open."
The Waterford-East Lyme Shellfish Commission is set to meet next week to discuss what can be done to remedy the problem. Kelly said state Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, and other members of the local delegation may be in attendance.
The commission issues between 2,500 and 3,000 shellfishing permits a year. He said recreational shellfishing is a boost to the local economy and the state should consider funding more labs.
In an email addressed to Kelly, Shannon Kelly, an environmental analyst with the Bureau of Aquaculture, explained the local shellfishing closures were forced in part because only one person was working in the state lab in Milford leading up to the holiday.
She said a local private lab used to do state testing on seawater samples for the commission, but it chose to end that service because it was not economically viable. She added the state's priority is commercial shellfishing. "We make every effort to accommodate recreational areas, but the reality is that we must concentrate on keeping commercial people working," Kelly said in the email.
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What: Waterford-East Lyme Shellfish Commission meeting
Where: East Lyme Town Hall
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.