The Waldoboro Board of Selectmen unanimously approved an increase in the shellfish harvesting fee at its March 12 meeting.

"Last year, we spent money from the reserve account for an assistant warden and that went well," said Shellfish committee member Abden Simmons.

"We currently have $2,000 left over this year until July when licenses need to be renewed," Simmons said.

In January, the committee was going through new license numbers, license fees and applications and decided they would like keep that assistant warden position and the determined the only way to do that is to increase the fees, he said.

Waldoboro's fee is $130 per license, almost $20 under the state average.

"We are the biggest producers, the biggest license holder in the state," Simmons said, "and we are well below everyone else."

Simmons said the committee had considered revenue from the fines, "but it may take a couple years to see that money, so we can't depend on that. We looked at many avenues, but this is the only way we will be able to come up with the money."

"You don't have to accept it, but there is a potential for guys without licenses to illegally clam," he said.

There is a potential of $200 to $300 a day that can be illegally taken out of the rivers, he said.

"You could be talking $60 to $80,000 a year they are taking from guys that do have licenses," Simmons said.

"So is $5,000 spent for this assistant warden worth protecting that amount of money worth of product?" he asked.

"That's basically what it comes down to; protecting the guys that have licenses now," Simmons said.

When the Shellfish Committee took a vote on the fee increase, it was 6-1-1.

Glen Melvin, another shellfish committee member, said "the price is $120 right now. If you add up all the top 10 rivers in the state, they average $228."

"If we are at $150, that is still $75 less than the average," said Melvin.

"This is just to sustain our employment … that's 175 jobs. This is to sustain this as a business," he said.

"For the bang for the buck, I don't know how you could go wrong," Melvin said.

Out-of-town fees would increase $60, fees for locals would go up $30. The current average out-of-town rate is $404.

"Even if Waldoboro went up to the proposed $300, it would still be a bargain," said Melvin.

"This industry alone in 2011 hauled in $1.5 million for diggers in Waldoboro alone," he said.

Selectmen approved the fees of $150 for residents and $300 for non-residents.

Town Manager John Spear noted the part-time warden position was included in the proposed budget he presented to the board earlier in the evening. With the passing of the vote, that portion will be taken out.

Courier Publications reporter Beth Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at bbirmingham@courierpublicationsllc.com.