WELLFLEET — Vacationers and visitors received another blow from the select board last week — a ban on seasonal recreational shellfishing permits.
On top of the short-term rentals ban through at least June 8 and the elimination of one-day beach passes for 2020, the select board voted unanimously on May 26 to halt the sale of seasonal permits.
Shellfish Constable Nancy Civetta requested the ban on the four-month permits to reduce the density of shellfish aficionados on Indian Neck.
“It’s hard to social distance on Indian Neck when it’s the only place people can go,” Civetta said. “Sometimes, there are 40, 80, 100 people out there.”
Civetta said she wouldn’t have enough staff to patrol the area adequately. Even before Covid-19, the constable had planned to petition the town for a budget increase for the shellfishing dept. to hire an extra person to patrol the Indian Neck flats.
With no ability to increase the budget until the delayed annual town meeting, now set for Oct. 5, Civetta feels she can’t properly check for permits and keep people safe on the flats.
Resident permits for year-round recreational shellfishing are still available, which helped persuade two skeptical board members to vote for the ban.
“Shellfishing is a recreation that puts people outside,” said board member Kathleen Bacon. “I know there is a lot of concern because of Covid-19, but this is precisely the kind of activity that we would like to see continue.”
Board member Michael DeVasto had a similar reaction, at least initially.
“It just seems to me there is enough space out there,” he said, “and if there is already [a shellfishing staffer] there, it seems like there is enough space for that to function.”
Though both Bacon and DeVasto opposed the ban at first, they later voted for it after Civetta said that nonresidents can still buy year-round residential recreational permits.
Annual permits are $210, compared to $85 for the banned seasonal permits.
Seasonal recreational shellfisherman Amanda Grabel said she doesn’t mind the extra cost.
“I was happy to buy the annual one, knowing that the town will be losing a lot of income,” she said.
Grabel, who recently bought a summer home in Wellfleet, has been shellfishing on Indian Neck with her family for six years.
Civetta hopes that the higher cost of annual permits will keep the number of people on the flats lower while allowing passionate shellfishers to do what they love.
Last year, the department sold 114 nonresident recreational permits, and 57 resident permits.
“Even if we cut down on the numbers a little bit, it would go a long way,” Civetta said.
Select board member Helen Miranda Wilson supported the constable, saying, “People who come in quickly aren’t accustomed to social distancing — right now, this summer, we have to protect people. This requires staff to get up close and personal. I just don’t want to add to their lack of protection. I’m thinking about the staff now.”