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Town Board work session debates the scallop die-off

Scallops — or the lack of them — were on the minds of attendees at the Nov. 6 Town Board work session.

Craig Wood, a town assessor and member of the Deer & Tick Committee, appealed to people to avoid using dangerous pesticides and fertilizer that result in runoffs into surrounding Island waters, which he said contribute to the die-off this year of adult scallops (see Reporter lead story of 11/7).

But Councilman Paul Shepherd wasn’t so sure. He questioned if that’s one of the major contributors to the year’s disastrous scallop harvest.

“I’m not advocating for spraying the bays,” Mr. Shepherd said. But he wondered if pesticides and fertilizers are truly the main culprits in this year’s die-off.

Mr. Wood was insistent that Suffolk County Vector Control workers have not had to seek permission to spray marshes to kill mosquitoes around the Island and people trying to kill ticks on their property are hiring exterminators whose spraying has had a negative impact on local waters.

Baymen have complained in the past about encountering sprays when they’re fishing off the coast.

Mr. Wood noted that many Islanders who fish local waters get a large source of their revenue from sale of scallops each year. He suggested that without them, there could be a residual effect in terms of the baymen’s needs in the year ahead.

Former councilman Ed Brown noted that waters around the island have appeared very clear this year, which makes him wonder what caused the die-off of adult scallops. But he noted that waters around Flanders, which are part of Peconic Bay, have contributed to pollution.

Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. offered some insight that was offered at the East End Seaport Museum by Stephen Tettlebach, Ph.D., a Long Island University biology professor whose team works out of the Cornell Cooperative Extension research center in Southold.

Mr. Tettlebach said those in search of the tasty morsels had better seek them out early and be prepared to pay more for them than in past seasons.

Some baymen in the audience said they saw more cownose rays, which feed on adult scallops, this year, but they were unsure there were enough to have killed the loss of what in the spring had looked like a promising crop.

Whether some sort of disease might have been a contributing factor was something Mr. Tettlebach said he couldn’t determine.