Organization Working to Help Shellfishermen During Bed Closure

Photo courtesy: Wellfletet SPAT A lack of dredging has made Wellfleet Harbor nearly inaccessible at low tide

Photo courtesy: Wellfletet SPAT

WELLFLEET – A local organization devoted to sustaining Wellfleet’s shellfishing and aquaculture industries is helping fishermen affected by the current shellfishing bed closures.

All beds in Wellfleet Harbor were closed down last month following an outbreak of norovirus linked to area shellfish.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued the ban on October 13, a few Days before OysterFest, after receiving reports of approximately 75 suspect cases of norovirus.

A statement from the DPH said they were all primarily associated with eating raw shellfish at weddings and restaurants in the Outer Cape area.

Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting started a relief fund for local fishermen at Oysterfest.

“We are just sorting out how we can best distribute it to the families and we are working on that this week and we will distribute that money,” said Michele Insley, Wellfleet SPAT’s executive director.

The closure is expected to be extended through the middle of this month which could keep local fishermen and shellfish farmers out of work for four to six weeks or more.

“It’s certainly a hardship for the shellfishermen at this point when they are preparing to sell off their product for the end of the season,” Insley said. “Four to six weeks out of work, I think that would be a hardship for anyone no matter what you are doing.”

Relief donations are still being accepted by Wellfleet SPAT and checks can be mailed to P.O. Box 2156, Wellfleet, MA 02667 with “Shellfishing Relief Fund” in the memo line. Donations can also be made at

The fishermen are also receiving more support from the community as the Grace Chapel Assembly of God held a food drive on Saturday and distributed the food to fishing families Monday.

SPAT has been communicating with the state since the shellfish beds were closed and are working to be a liaison with state officials to learn as much as they can and advocate for local fishermen.

State officials will be in Wellfleet this week to survey the coastline to find a potential source of the norovirus.

“If they could figure out a source for this outbreak and then prevent it from happening in the future that is really paramount on everyone’s mind, including SPAT,” Insley said.

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