The Wellfleet Shellfishermen's Farmers Market will be back in the Fall. In the meantime, please patronize our market sponsor Cape Tip Seafood in Truro or Orleans or Holbrook Oyster in Eastham for Wellfleet's finest shellfish.

Clams, Community and the Cape (Part 1 of 4) by Adriane Michaelis

During the Summer of 2019 the Wellfleet Shellfishermen's Association welcomed Adriane Michaelis into our world and onto the Wellfleet flats as she finished her research for her Ph.D with a focus on Oysters, Livelihoods and Anthropology.  This is Part 1 of 4 from her time with us from her blog at the University of Maryland. 

This post is another one that started out as a single post and quickly evolved into multiple. I set out with the goal of sharing my experience on the Cape and how great it was to be welcomed by the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association. But to do that, there was so much information to tell about the towns on Cape Cod (Wellfleet and others) as well as how their shellfisheries are uniquely managed. I won’t be able to capture it all in my <900 word blog posts. There is a lot to describing the shellfisheries of Cape Cod, and the communities involved.

Shark sign.

Sharks have received a lot of publicity around the Cape this summer, but they weren’t the focus of my time there. Photo by: Adriane Michaelis.

In the posts that follow, I’ll touch on a few themes (not necessarily in the order that the title suggests – I was going for cleaner alliteration there). First, I’ll discuss the idea of community and how strong the sense of community is along much of the Cape. There are community bounds at multiple levels. As one example, considering Wellfleet, one sees multiple communities within the same space: Cape Cod > the Outer Cape > the town of Wellfleet > Wellfleet Shellfishermen. Such an understanding has implications for my research, as well as the general character of the Cape.



Cape Cod Map with towns

Cape Cod is comprised of 15 towns with the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket on its southern side. Not shown here, but Bourne/Sandwich represent the end of the Cape that branches off of mainland Massachusetts. Image from:

I’ll also talk about clams. And oysters. Bivalve shellfish in general. Shellfish management on the Cape occurs in a way that differs from all of the other states that I had the chance to visit and work in on my “tour”. Operating at the municipal level, each town regulates its own shellfisheries, still bounded by state regulations but deciding things at the township level. This creates shellfisheries operating quite differently from one another, even between neighboring towns.

Finally, I’d like to extend thanks for the warm welcome from the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association (WSA). I’ve talked on here before about the importance of establishing rapport and efforts to identify possible project participants…and how painful it can be to cold-call for interviews. This group certainly helped overcome some of those obstacles. It’s tough being the new kid in town every two months, so the ability to join a local fishermen’s group was extremely helpful. Also, bringing it back to this discussion of community, the WSA is a group that formed with the aim of protecting and preserving their community, particularly as it relates to their shellfisheries. Not only did I have the opportunity to meet some truly wonderful people in the WSA, but I also was able to gain a better perspective and understanding of the industry issues they are facing.

While on the Cape, I had the chance to meet and work with members of the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association:

The next three posts will attempt to introduce these topics and hopefully provide a window to shellfisheries on Cape Cod. As always, I welcome any feedback and comments.