Featured Story

Wait: It’s not a bad year for scallops — Island seeding program proves successful

You read it here; you read it there; you read it everywhere. This has been a bad year for scallops.

Now comes word that scallop lovers on Shelter Island have reason to celebrate.

Attention to the success first came from Islander K.C. Bailey who volunteered for one day with the effort and found the re-seeding initiative “an eye opener.”

Working on the project demonstrated how much can be done to regenerate and restore wetlands, Ms. Bailey said.

“Let’s remember, this has always been an island of baymen and fishermen. Let’s not lose that, it is precious,” she said.

Islander Kate Rossi-Snook, Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Aquaculture Coordinator, thought back in August she could only report mixed — read that as mostly bad — results for shellfish restoration, which could mean an end to town funding that has been forthcoming.

The Town Board wasn’t pulling the plug, but Ms. Rossi-Snook admitted she was “a little disheartened” by a report in August of a sudden die-off that destroyed almost all scallops that had looked promising as late as the end of June.

The reason was unknown at the time, but water temperatures, pH levels and parasites were thought to be the culprits. All she could tell the Town Board at the time was the Island wasn’t the only place to experience the die-off, which may be an indication that spawning should be switched to fall from spring.

“I tried to stay positive this year but it was really hard,” she admitted.

Recently, she began getting word from baymen in Island waters who reported getting bushels of scallops in two areas in Coecles Harbor, not far from Taylor’s Island.

No, the early die-off wasn’t untrue. But in this area, healthy eelgrass thrives, providing a healthy and protective habitat for the scallop bugs.

Some scallops that may have been damaged by storms were thriving because the habitat breaks up the storm water, protecting the scallops.

The use of a spawner sanctuary approach — involving a small area where scallop “bugs” could be seeded densely and protected from disruption by buoys marking the small area — seems to have provided the elements that have given rise to success.

“The point of my work is to keep these guys going,” Ms. Rossi-Snook said about the baymen who are achieving their quotas.

Getting the scallop bugs was a bit of a lucky turn because the shellfish hatchery Cornell has in Southold had an abundance of the bugs that were drying out and they were able to provide them to Ms. Rossi-Snook to use in Coecles Harbor.

“It was a battle at the beginning,” she said. But the resulting success “feels so meaningful.” Ms. Rossi-Snook said.

To learn more about the efforts on Shelter Island to restore shellfish and, perhaps, to get involved as a volunteer with the program Ms. Rossi-Snook is leading, she will be speaking at the library in a Friday Night Dialogues program on Dec. 29 at 7 p.m.

The program is titled Oyster Reefs, Eelgrass Meadows and Living Shorelines — Restoring Habitats and Hope.