Scallop die-off in Peconic Bay takes toll on local economy

Just one week after the opening of the Peconic Bay scallop season, the harsh reality is setting in: Most of the adult scallops in Peconic Bay are dead. 

"The scallop season, it's nonexistent," commercial fisherman Bob Hamilton said. "I didn't even bother putting the dredges on my boat."

Hamilton is struggling with what the die-off means for him and the other baymen who rely on scalloping during the winter months. 

"Probably 20% of my yearly income that I'll never get back," he said. "It's gone."

Dr. Stephen Tettelbach, a Shellfish ecologist, said the last time the die-off was this bad was back in the 1980s and '90s during the brown tide algal blooms. 

"I believe the most likely explanation of the die-off is due to high water temperatures and-or low dissolved oxygen levels," he said. 

Another theory is that different marine predators that eat scallops are becoming more prevalent on Long Island. Some also believe the die-off is part of the natural life cycle.

Regardless of the reason, the impact is being felt tremendously. 

In years past, seasonal shuckers at Southold Fish Market had their work cut out for them. Now they're out of a job. 

Owner Charlie Manwaring said his phones have been ringing off the hook as employees deliver the disappointing news to customers.

"It goes right down to the gas stations, the coffee guy, the breakfast guy, the customers coming from New York out here, the vineyards, farm stands, all the restaurants," Manwaring said. "We're not going to have the big rush of people out here. It'll hurt the economy out here."

He will still sell different species of scallops this season but they won't have the same sweet taste as the delicious delicacies. 


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