A clam die-off in Brunswick was one of the largest in five years, and officials believe it can be attributed to changing water temperatures and runoff. Credit: CBS 13/WGME

BRUNSWICK, Maine — It was one of the largest die-off events in nearly five years, and now officials in the town of Brunswick believe some of the impacts of climate change may be to blame.

The die-off impacted at least four acres of clam beds in a number of coves across the community.

“This is sort of like raising the flag, raising the signal, saying come on people pay attention,” Brunswick Coastal Resource Manager Dan Devereaux said.

Luckily, Devereaux says testing of the clams involved ruled out any disease impact, which could have decimated the $13 million a year industry. However, issues like warming waters, increased nutrients and run-off from the shore may have created a perfect storm.

“Those all result in these algae blooms and when those algae blooms are so big and so thick, we can’t filter them in our bay,” Devereaux said. “That algae dies and it sucks the oxygen out of the water and that is problematic.”

With run-off being linked to the increased severity of algae blooms, some communities in Maine have taken steps to restrict the use of fertilizers and pesticides.

“Things like Portland and South Portland have done, where they’re limiting pesticide uses in certain areas and setting larger set backs from streams and wetlands,” Devereaux said. “All of this stuff has to be taken into account.”

While Brunswick isn’t considering those types of restrictions just yet, this year’s die-off seems to have opened a lot of eyes either way.