Tag Archive | "shellfish"

A Bumper Scallop Season is Celebrated

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Heller_Scallop Shucking at Dan Lester Fishery 11-17-14_2535_LR


George Merritt, Wayne Fenelon and Jim Bennett shuck scallops at  Dan Lester’s facility in Amagansett on Monday. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Stephen J. Kotz

East End baymen and diners alike have grown accustomed to scallop seasons that begin with a bang but end with whimper in a matter of days. But this year has been different, with an abundance of the tasty shellfish being harvested from the bays and finding their way to local tables.

“So far, they have been pretty plentiful,” said Charlotte Sasso, an owner of Stuart’s Seafood Shop in Amagansett. “They are reasonably priced for the customer and the fishermen are getting rewarded for their hard work.”

The scallop season opened November 3 in New York State waters and on November 10 in town waters.

“A week after town waters opened, we’re still receiving 200 to 300 pounds a day,” Ms. Sasso said this week, adding that she was optimistic there would still be scallops available well into winter this year.

Danny Lester, 41, an Amagansett bayman who has spent a lifetime on the water, concurred. Even with increased competition from part-time commercial baymen and recreational scallopers, “who have come out of the woodwork because it’s a good season, there is stuff all over the place,” he said. “You can still go out, put your time in and get your limit.”

Mr. Lester said he was confident that he and his brother, Paul Lester, with whom he works most days, would be scalloping well into January. “You might not get your limit, but if you get six or seven bags, it’s still a good day’s pay,” he said. The season closes on March 31, although in practice it has not lasted that long in decades.

Commercial license holders can take five bushels a day, while recreational permit holders are limited to a single bushel.

Make no mistake about it, even when they are plentiful, scallops are not cheap. They have been selling for $20 to $23 per pound in East End seafood shops early in the season, but as the supply begins to decline, Mr. Lester said he expects prices to rise.

“The price is less than they started out at last year when they were about $30 a pound and averaged $25 to $30 during the course of their availability,” added Ms. Sasso.

A year ago, early prospects for a successful scallop season were dashed when rust tide spread through East End waters in the summer, killing all manner of shellfish. Mr. Lester said believed “the cold winter last year helped, but we did not have the rust tide like they had the last couple of years.”

He said there were a large number of bug scallops, which, barring a return of harmful tides next year, bode well for another successful season.

Since 2008, East Hampton Town’s Shellfish Hatchery has been growing scallops and seeding them into sanctuaries in Napeague and Three Mile harbors, according to  John “Barley” Dunne, the hatchery’s director, who said “some credit has to be given to restoring the shellfish beds” for the successful season in East Hampton. “Next year, we are hoping to expand into other harbors in town and that this bounty will occur in those harbors as well.”

But he added the revival may be more cyclical in nature.  “There’s been a good scallop harvest on other parts of the island,” he said, adding baymen were having good luck in Southampton Town and even as far north as Martha’s Vineyard.

Like Mr. Lester, he agreed the lack of harmful algae blooms also helped this year’s set thrive. “The one we worry about is the rust tide,” he said. Although the rust tide affected waters in parts of Southampton last summer, East Hampton was largely been sparred.

Kevin McAllister, the director of Defend H2O, an environmental organization dedicated to protecting water quality, said he was skeptical that this season’s rebound will last.

“We haven’t remotely turned the corner. We’ve got big challenges ahead of us,” he said of water quality issues. “As far as a modestly good scallop season, let’s hold the applause here and see if five or six years follow or if this is just a blip.”

If the East End wants to restore its fisheries, it will have to do much to reverse long-term trends in water quality degradation, according to Mr. McAllister.

Mr. Lester sounded a note of caution of another sort. He pointed out that commercial baymen are required to obtain separate permits for their shucking sheds that must have running water, refrigeration and be inspected by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to make sure the shellfish are not tainted.

“There are some people who are selling scallops for cheap,” he said. “But if you are buying them you might be getting them from someone who is opening them on the tailgate of his truck.”

DEC Reopens Sag Harbor Shellfishing

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Approximately 490 acres of shellfish lands in Sag Harbor Cove, Town of Southampton, is re-opening for the harvest of shellfish, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. These areas were closed on April 26, after DEC’s Bureau of Marine Resources detected saxitoxin, a naturally occurring marine biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, in shellfish in Sag Harbor Cove.

Effective at sunrise on Friday, May 25 the biotoxin closure for shellfish (clams, mussels, oysters) is rescinded in all of the normally certified shellfish lands in Sag Harbor Cove, including upper Sag Harbor Cove. The biotoxin closure for carnivorous gastropods (conch, whelks, moon snails, etc.) is also rescinded for all of Sag Harbor Cove, including upper Sag Harbor Cove.

In addition, the DEC is rescinding the prohibition against taking carnivorous gastropods in Shinnecock Bay. Approximately 3,900 acres of underwater lands in western Shinnecock Bay was closed to the harvest of carnivorous gastropods on April 10. Effective at sunrise on Friday, May 25, the taking of carnivorous gastropods is permitted in all of Shinnecock Bay.

The decision to re-open these areas was based on the results of the DEC’s testing of shellfish samples and is consistent with the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. DEC’s microbiology laboratory has tested more than 150 shellfish samples for biotoxin since March 2012.

Shellfishing Closed in Sag Harbor Cove After Toxin is Detected

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Photo courtesy of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Sag Harbor and Upper Sag Harbor Coves have been closed for the harvesting of shellfish until further notice. This news came after the state discovered a marine biotoxin in the coves last week. The toxin — saxitoxin — can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.

On Thursday, April 26 The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) closed the 490 acres of the coves and their tributaries west of the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge.

According to DEC officials, the decision to close the area to shellfishing came after the toxin was discovered in shellfish collected from a monitoring site in Sag Harbor Cove.

In addition to shellfish, residents are also prohibited from harvesting carnivorous gastropods like conch as those creatures feed on shellfish and may also have accumulated the toxin at levels that are hazardous to human health.

According to a spokesperson with the regional office of the DEC, Aphrodite Montalvo, the toxin discovered in Sag Harbor Cove is a neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring algae such as Alexandrium, a marine dinoflagellate that is often attributed to the notorious red tide.

The species is most commonly found in environments with high nitrogen levels.

In the last year, both Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister and Dr. Christopher Gobler, an associate professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, have presented findings showing that the increased density of residential development across Long Island has spiked nitrogen levels in waters leading to both red and brown tides.

Earlier in April, DEC closed areas in western Shinnecock Bay as well as Northport Harbor and parts of Northport Bay for the harvesting of shellfish for the same reason. Those bodies of water remain closed.

According to Montalvo, the DEC will test shellfish in the coves sometime this week. Following guidelines from the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP), Montalvo said the DEC will need to produce three clean tests on shellfish in Sag Harbor Cove over a two week period before it can open the area to shellfish harvesting again.

Areas that have tested positive for toxins, added Montalvo, are sampled weekly by the DEC. Currently, said Montalvo, the DEC has 18 monitoring sites around Long Island set up each early spring before algae blooms are expected to occur. Those stations are tested weekly until the blooms decline, which usually happens in late June or early July depending on the temperature of the water.

The DEC also receives oyster samples from two aquaculture facilities for regular testing, said Montalvo.

For the many families raising oysters in Sag Harbor Cove, Montalvo said that during the closure residents should be mindful that shellfish that take in the algae can accumulate enough toxin in their flesh to be harmful if consumed with the potential to cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. However, she added that being filter feeders, once the algae bloom dissipates the shellfish will filter the toxin out of its flesh as it takes in clean water and will be safe for consumption over time.

In its news release last week, the DEC said it would re-open areas to shellfishing as soon as possible based on the results of further testing. For updates on the closure, call the DEC’s hotline at 444-0480 or contact the DEC’s main shellfishing office at 444-0475.