On Friday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation approved a one-time extension of bay scallop season, changing the last day of the harvest for 2015 from March 31 to April 30. The move is designed to alleviate financial hardship on East End baymen.
The one-month extension, which is only applicable to state waters, is designed to provide relief for baymen who could not harvest scallops for some weeks during the dead of winter when boats could not exist harbors due to ice. The season traditionally opens on the first Monday of November.
“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.”
Most of New York’s bay scallops are found in the Peconic and Gardiners bays, according to the DEC. Bay scallop harvest has been on the rise 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 represent the highest annual harvest reported since 1985, and 2015 is expected to be another banner year.
The DEC noted that bay scallops only live about two years. According to the agency, 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 juvenile “bug” scallops would not be affected by a one-month extension of the open season for 2015 since they are not large enough to be legally taken this season and will represent the spawning and adult population for next year’s harvest.
For more information about bay scallop harvesting, call DEC’s Shellfisheries Section at 631-444-0477.