Last year’s Peconic Bay scallop season was the second year in a row of good news for the struggling East End scallop fishery, and environmental factors are shaping up for the possibility of another fine season, opening at dawn Monday morning.
Over the past two years, cold winters and relatively cool summers had kept down the presence of rust tide, an algae bloom that is at its most intense in hot, wet summers and is toxic to shellfish. The bloom has been found in East End bays for 11 years, but has been found in much lower concentrations the past two summers.
Scallopers harvested just 32,000 pounds of meat in 2012 to 2013, but harvested more than 100,000 pounds of meat in the 2013 to 2014 season. This past season, they harvested 88,575 pounds of meat, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation figures.
At its height before the first brown tide bloom in 1985, baymen were harvesting an average of around 300,000 pounds of meat per year, says Dr. Stephen Tettelbach, who runs the Peconic Bay Scallop Restoration Project for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.
Dr. Tettelbach and his research associates survey about 30 hot scalloping spots throughout the Peconic Bay throughout the year, and right now they’re “finding scallops almost everywhere we look,” he said on Oct. 29.
Dr. Tettelbach said his team has produced a research paper that shows that scallop landings are likely two-and-a-half times higher than the official numbers, because many more scallopers are selling directly to private buyers without the middlemen of fish markets, which usually report the numbers to the DEC.
“I think the news is even better than we’re hearing,” he said.
He added that there has been a good fall spawn the past two seasons, which bodes well for scallopers in the later part of the season. Scallops live just two years, and can be harvested once they have passed their first year of growth, which can be seen by a slight ridge across their shells.
Scallop season continues through March 31.