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Georges Bank slowly opens to clamming

A container of clams was unloaded from the Sea Watcher 1 in New Bedford. Kits like the one below were used on board and on the dock to test samples for levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning before and after the mollusks were harvested.
A container of clams was unloaded from the Sea Watcher 1 in New Bedford. Kits like the one below were used on board and on the dock to test samples for levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning before and after the mollusks were harvested.Photos by Gretchen Ertl for The Boston Globe

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When Andrew Rencurrel fills his cargo hold and heads home after days raking the bottom of the sea, the captain of the large trawler makes a call that triggers a series of e-mails alerting state and federal officials, local labs, and dozens of others closely monitoring his lucrative haul.

Over the past five years, federal officials have allowed the Sea Watcher 1 to scoop up millions of pounds of clams from the bountiful waters of Georges Bank, something fishermen throughout the region have been banned from doing for more than two decades because of concerns about food poisoning.

Now, after federal officials have deemed their trial a success, they’re allowing other fishermen to harvest the prized clam beds that for years provided the meat to fill chowder bowls around the world.

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