The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation filed emergency regulations last Friday to extend the commercial Peconic Bay scallop season until April 30, due to the solid month of ice that kept scallopers off the waters in what had been a very productive scallop season.
The season had been scheduled to end March 31. The change is for this year only.
“The extension of the bay scallop season from March 31 until April 30 is critical to maximizing the income potential by commercial harvesters and to mitigate financial hardship caused by extensive icing of local embayments this winter that have prevented bay scallop harvest in Peconic Bays since early February,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “Extending the open season by one month will provide for increased revenues by commercial harvesters, shippers and local seafood markets while ensuring the viability of bay scallop resources in state waters.”
Bay scallop harvest has been on the increase in the past few years, providing a new source of income for commercial shellfishermen during the late fall and winter months.
In 2014, bay scallop landings were just over 100,000 pounds, with a dockside value of $1.5 million as compared to 2013 landings of only 32,000 pounds. The 2014 bay scallop landings were the highest annual harvest reported since 1985, before the brown tide laid waste to scallop habitat.
This year’s bay scallop season opened in November with more than 100 boats working in the Peconic Bays and was expected to be another banner year, but the record cold temperatures this winter caused widespread freezing of East End bays, which prevented baymen from scalloping for as much as five weeks.
Bay scallops only live about two years. Because of the bay scallop’s short life span, legal-sized adult scallops will likely die before the summer spawning period and will not survive for the opening of the next season in November.
The DEC says juvenile “bug” scallops would not be affected by a one-month extension of the open season for this year, since they are not large enough to be legally taken this season and will provide the spawning and adult population for next year’s harvest.