No clamming on Sundays: The story behind one of New Jersey’s strangest laws
There are still some antiquated laws on the books in New Jersey, but few are ever still enforced. But there is one exception in the bays and marshes of the Jersey Shore.
Some may not know that it is illegal to harvest shellfish on Sundays in New Jersey. This applies to recreational fishing or commercial fisherman.
John Garrigan is a commercial clam harvester.
“I have no idea why it’s really in place,” he says about the law.
No one really seems to know why the law was put into place or why it is still on the books. News 12’s Brian Donohue has asked many officials over the years - the state Department of Environmental Protection, the state law library, even former state Sen. Colin Bell who introduced a bill that would have allowed clamming on Sundays. No one was able to provide any background about the original law.
The “no clamming on Sundays” law is actually enforced in the Garden State. There are only a few places – such as the Raritan Bay – where there is an exception.
David Tauro manages the Belford Seafood Co-op. He says he sees it as just another rule that makes it hard for commercial fishery workers to make a living.
“Fishermen are more restricted than any other laborer in the world,” he says.
Theories as to why New Jersey banned Sunday clamming range from wives wanting their baymen husbands at home and church on Sundays, to the state not having enough manpower to patrol clam beds and keep poachers away.
But some people are glad to have the law in place. Pat Ward has been doing the hard work of a bayman for 50 years. A hip replacement, a hernia and a million aches and pains later, he says he likes the Sunday ban.
“You get to the point where I don’t mind Sundays off,” he says.
A bill that would allow commercial harvesters to clam on Sunday was introduced in the state Legislature last year, but it never made it to a full vote in either the state Senate or Assembly.