Local officials held the inaugural Scallop Toss on July 19 to mark the Town of Southampton’s new scallop hatchery that will help the struggling shellfish population in the Peconic Bay.
Town and Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program officials gathered at the Tiana Bayside Facility in Hampton Bays to mark the start of the project with the help of a nearly $580,000 grant from the Community Preservation Fund.
“The quality of life in Southampton Town will always be strongly linked to its natural resources,” said CCE Marine Program Natural Resource Specialist Chris Smith. “As importantly, it strengthens people’s connections to our bays and creeks, our heritage.”
As Dan’s Papers has reported, federal officials recently declared last year’s Peconic Bay scallop fishery collapse a disaster, but marine biologists surveying the waterway believe that the shellfish are rebounding to their highest level in more than a decade.
To help, juvenile clams will be raised in cages, ensuring they reach maturity, then be released throughout Southampton waters, allowing them to spawn and further contribute to the wild scallop population. The program will expand the preexisting coastal plant nursery as well as encourage the growth of eelgrass, which is scallops’ natural environment.
Peconic Bay Scallops and their high price point (sometimes $30 a pound) made scallops a staple of not only local cuisine, but the East End economy. But for two seasons in a row, the local scallop population had been decimated by conditions related to climate change.
The preservation effort will not only help the baymen that make a living on the scallop harvest, but also the environment. Scallops are filter feeders, meaning they process the particles in the water. During this filtration process, scallops can also remove plenty of viruses, parasites and toxins from the water.
“This program helps improve our water quality while supporting our local economy and celebrating our marine heritage, making it a winning situation all around,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.