Die-off of Peconic Bay scallops under review

Suffolk County officials are calling on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to take a closer look at this year's historic scallop die-off.

"We do believe that high water temperature and low dissolved oxygen levels in conjunction with the spawning of adult scallops is the most plausible explanation at this time," said Dr. Stephen Tettelbach, a shellfish ecologist with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk County.

The lack of scallops in the Peconic Bay is said to have cost the Long Island economy hundreds of jobs. Tom Kehoe, the chairman of the Suffolk County Subcommittee on Fisheries and Shellfish, said what few Peconic Bay scallops can still be harvested are in very short supply and those are being sold at more than 100% markup if you can even find them.

"This is a heritage industry," Kehoe said. "The hard clams and the wild set oysters have diminished here on Long Island. We don't have lobsters left on the Long Island Sound to speak of, our Long Island ducks and LI potatoes have been replaced by I don't know what. So we're concerned about this."

The Peconic Estuary, which includes the Peconic Bay, is federally protected under the Clean Water Act. Local officials hope to bring attention to the issue to solidify the continued support from federal and state government.

"We're actually are going to try to get samples of live scallops and look at levels of toxins in the tissues and check to see if disease may play a possible role in this," Tettelbach said.

The DEC will continue research and identify contributing factors that may have played a role in the recent die-off. The DEC hopes to also relocate juvenile bay scallops into deeper waters to protect them from washing up on the shoreline and increase their survival this winter.


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