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Shellfishery Management and Enforcement

Natural History

Shellfish resources in the Town of Barnstable have ecological, commercial, and recreational importance. Oysters, quahogs, softshell clams, mussels, and other bivalve species filter our coastal waters to remove algae, cleaning up the water. They also provide food for other marine animals and harvestable product to our commercial shellfishing industry. Recreational harvest of shellfish in Barnstable has been a treasured past time for Cape Cod residents and visitors for hundreds of years. The Town of Barnstable Natural Resources team is responsible for sustainable management of this vital marine resource.

Some shellfish you will find in Barnstable.


Quahogs of different sizes are the same species, they just have different names. They all want to grow up to be chowder!  


  Keep your catch cool!... for safe consumption.


** To shellfish in the town of Barnstable a current permit is required. They can be purchased in person at

1189 Phinneys Ln, Centerville, MA 02632
. Please remember to check the latest information about shellfishing areas, closures, seasons, and updates by visiting our shellfishing webpage, and enjoy our shellfish resources responsibly !**

The Natural Resources Department also offers clamming class for kids in the early summer. Check the website and shellfish information kiosks at town landings for updates!


View Slideshow


Know Where to Go!

Please keep yourself up to date with the latest shellfish area closures and openings. Be on the look out for these types of signs, buoys , and maps when you plan to harvest shellfish in Barnstable "View Slideshow" It is not safe to eat shellfish from areas closed due to poor water quality and it is illegal to harvest shellfish from within aquaculture lease sites and town propagation projects. Current shellfish area closures.

Management and Regulation

Town of Barnstable Natural Resource Officers and Deputy Shellfish Constables constantly patrol town landings and waterways every day of the week and during night time hours, protecting our shellfish resources from illegal harvest.

Pursuant to Section 6 of Article 89 of the amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, the Charter of the Town and Chapter 130 of the Massachusetts General Laws, a local system to control, regulate or prohibit the taking of eels and any or all kinds of shellfish, sea worms, and alewives within the Town is authorized.

Barnstable shellfish regulations are on the Town code websearch and here in .pdf format.

Some common recreational shellfish regulations that you need to know include:

Permits – A current Town of Barnstable recreational shellfishing permit is required

before you can harvest any shellfish within town limits. All permits expire March 1st every year (regardless of purchase date).

Days and Hours- Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday from ½ hour before sunrise, to

sunset (limits for the week begin on Sunday)


Species - Quahogs at least 1 inch thick, one level peck basket per week (10 qts)

Softshell Clams at least 2 inches long, one level peck basket per week

Oysters at least 3 inches long, one half peck per week (5 qts)

These rules are constant, unless otherwise stated on shellfish information kiosks, Natural Resources’ shellfishing website, or at the Natural Resource office at 1189 Phinneys Ln., Centerville, MA.

You are required to familiarize yourself with all other Town of Barnstable Natural Resource regulations as provided upon your purchase of a shellfishing permit, or posted during the permit year.

Town of Barnstable Natural Resource Officers can also enforce the following lobster regulations, by authority of Massachusetts Genereal Law 130§ 8A: sections 31, 37, 38, 38A, 39, 41, 41A, 43, and 44. As well as State of Massachusetts regulations for crabs, conch, whelk, sea scallops, and surf clams.

Natural Resources Program Responsibilities
  • Enforcing local by-laws and state of Massachusetts shellfish regulations regarding catch limits, closed seasons, closed areas, size limits, shellfishing hours and days, and other shellfish harvest related rules.
  • Managing and performing shellfish propagation projects for different species of economically and recreationally important shellfish.
  • Patrol 2,759 acres of open shellfishing areas in town limits (The equivalent of 104 miles of saltwater shoreline.)
  • Monitor 2,850 recreationally permitted shellfishers, 47 commercial shellfish permitees, and 65 aquaculture lease sites (encompassing 156 acres). (*Numbers from 2014 permit year.)
  • Assisting the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries with instituting water quality management protocols. (Water quality testing and shellfishery management by the state are mandated by the Federal Food and Drug Administration’s National Shellfish Sanitation Program for shellfish areas harvested for public consumption.)
  • Assessing coastal zone projects and performing shellfish surveys and reports for such projects. Performing shellfish surveys for resource management purposes.
  • Formulating, integrating, disseminating and maintaining shellfishery management information for the general public.
  • Interacting with federal, state and local authorities, agencies and groups regarding shellfish management, regulatory, enforcement, educational and private shellfish aquaculture issues.
  • Report, grant, and contract writing, as well as comprehensive review studies including GIS/GPS mapping, for shellfish resource enhancement, restoration, and management.


Useful Information and Links





Daniel J. Horn
P 508-790-6272
F 508-790-6275
1189 Phinney's Lane
Centerville, MA. 02632

Public Records
Ann Quirk
Public Records Request
Natural Resource Officers


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