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Helping to bring back scallops, sanctuaries gain support

Shelter Island got its feet wet this spring and summer with a successful oyster reef project in which spat — oyster larvae — are placed on shells, providing a safe place where oysters can grow.

While licensing is expected for another season, the woman who inspired that project, Islander Kate Rossi-Snook, has been involved with staff from Cornell Cooperative Extension on another request the Town Board is willing to entertain to save young scallops from dying.

The problem arose because scallops that were seeded in creeks, which would at this stage be moved to scallop sanctuaries to continue their development, have no place to go.

At least 40,000 could die without a sanctuary.

“We have put way too much sweat and tears and time into producing these scallops,” Ms. Rossi-Snook said.

Without quick work, they’re going to start dying, she said.

She suggested a site in Coecles Harbor off the First Causeway that would be about 20 meters by 20 meters and has a sandy area where they would be protected from northeast winds.

“I don’t want to interfere with anyone’s harvest,” Ms. Rossi-Snook said about welcoming input from baymen to use that site or an alternative that they might prefer.

The area where the sanctuary would go would have buoys at four corners holding the netting and, outside of that area, the baymen could harvest scallops, she said.

Councilwoman BJ Ianfolla said she had emails ready to go out to those baymen with email accounts but would have to reach out to others with letters.

Still, the expectation was that the Town Board favors the project and was ready to put the issue to a vote at a special meeting to be called after its Sept. 13 work session.

Councilman Jim Colligan thanked Ms. Rossi-Snook for her efforts this summer with the oyster reefs and said he saw no barrier to being able to save the scallops from extinction.

Ms. Rossi-Snook, a member of the Shelter Island Board of Education, also talked about efforts to get students involved in the oyster spat program that not only gives rise to new oysters, but helps improve and protect surrounding waterways.