Basket of shellfishThe rich history of harvesting shellfish in Eastham is an important link to the town's traditional way of life. As a popular recreational activity for residents and visitors alike the exploration of this resource is also a valuable component of the town's economic growth. Significant issues of increased demand, water quality, and invasive species are impacting this valuable component of the town's natural resources.

Shellfish Management

The Department is committed to maintaining shellfish stocks in response to this demand and in order to preserve the diversity and productivity of the town's marshes and bays. Successful management of this fishery relies upon public support of supervised shellfishing programs and cooperation between various private and municipal aquaculture ventures.

The goals of the Natural Resources Department are to maintain and enhance healthy shellfish stocks through a variety of methods. These include innovative techniques which are based on the science of Aquaculture as well as the traditional methods of enforcing regulations that are designed to encourage conservation.

Education of the general public about these important topics is an ongoing part of our work and we hope this site will contribute to your understanding. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Shellfish Importance & Value

Shellfish populations represent a significant part of the estuarine habitat. From an industry perspective, they represent income and livelihood. Recreationally, shellfishing is a major component of the leisure activity of both residents and visitors, and overall the presence of a healthy shellfishery is part of the quality of life that we enjoy.

Another aspect of their value is the ability to serve as a barometer for the health and well-being of the ecosystem in which they live, which in turn is influenced by the surrounding upland areas. Shellfish are in fact very useful sentinel organisms as they constantly monitor water quality and "report" back to observers their findings.

Recreation Shellfish Permits

Recreational shellfish permits are available to residents and non-residents alike, and may be purchased through the Recreation & Beach Department Sticker Office. There are two types of permits:

  1. One year permit which is valid from June 1st to May 31st of the following calendar year
  2. Seven-day permit which is valid for the dates specified on the permit.

Both permits allow the holder to harvest up to ten quarts of shellfish per week (A week is defined as seven consecutive days beginning on Sunday and ending on Saturday, with the exception of the seven-day permit where the week is defined by the valid dates on the permit). There is no limit to the number of helpers but the person whose name is on the permit must be present. Also, the permit must be carried while shellfishing. Please view the current regulations and catch limits before shellfishing. 

Commercial Permits

Commercial permits are only available to domiciled residents of Eastham or Orleans and must be obtained between the months of January and March. Both types of permits are available at the Natural Resources office or through the mail.