How are our local waters?
They’re pretty good, scallops are on the rebound. There has been lots of talk about bugs, and we have high hopes for this year. We do a scallop sanctuary project and seed heavily. We broadcast the spawners and keep them pretty dense; the closer together they are the more likely they are to fertilize the eggs.
Spat numbers have gone up each year since we started in 2008. We’re at 8416 percent over first year. So, barring any harmful blooms, our waters are in good shape.
The ocean waters help a lot in keeping the local waters clean, moreso than water further up west.
The past couple of decades have been challenging for shellfish in local waters; what have we learned about helping them?
We’re on the right track. Bayscaping, a program promoted by the Peconic Baykeeper, is helpful. We educate the public about fertilizer, hard top and runoff. The recent trend is to also make the people aware of their septic systems. There’s also talk of nitrogen removal systems.
What’s the biggest threat?
A combination of over harvesting and runoff. It’s what we put on the ground and in the ground. We’re all part of the watershed; it’s not just someone living on the water that’s a problem.
What techniques have made the greatest strides?
Just seeding year after year. We seed millions each year and seed the same areas. People know where to go. The town has bred the notata clam, which has a recessive gene leaving a red mark. The notata clam grows a little faster, and has the marking. You’ll see the red marking the clam, but it’s not something you should be concerned about.
How about the oysters?
They’re doing well; but we have some issues with people taking them under size. You can get a pretty penny for oysters: 50 cents maybe a dollar an oyster. It’s unfortunate we have a lack of enforcement, people are taking them early.
What do you look for in a good seeding area?
It depends on the species. We look for areas that were productive in the past. A hard bottom for oysters. We put them in an area of water flow; the faster they grow and get to a certain size it will allow them to survive better.
For scallops, the beauty is they don’t need eel grass to survive because the ones we’re seeding are larger; they get less of a problem from predators. In Napeague, for example, there are a lot of blue claw crabs; they will decimate almost an entire crop of smaller spat.
What should people get out of their visit to the hatchery?
We’re still trying to get the word out we’re doing what we’re doing.
Hopefully they’ll learn how we start from scratch, produce their food, and then seed them.