New York, NY - March 27, 2015 - The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today extended the open season for bay scallop harvesting until April 30, 2015 to provide additional harvesting opportunities for commercial shellfishermen in state waters, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today.
DEC filed emergency regulations on March 27 to allow for a one-time extension of the open season, possession and sale restrictions for bay scallop harvest by one month from March 31 to April 30 for 2015 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," Commissioner 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."
New York's bay scallop resource is primarily located in the waters of Peconic and Gardiners Bays in eastern Suffolk County and situated within the five east end townships of Riverhead, Southold, Shelter Island, Southampton and East Hampton. The open season for bay scallop harvest is the first Monday in November (opened on November 3, 2014) and ends on March 31.
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 represent the highest annual harvest reported since 1985. 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 for bay scallop harvest.
The record cold temperatures this winter caused widespread freezing of east end embayments preventing commercial harvesters from undertaking bay scallop harvest in most areas of Peconic Bays for up to five weeks. Commercial harvesters lost a significant portion of their income potential during the winter. Some of these areas in Peconic Bays are still inaccessible due to ice which leaves very little opportunity to harvest bay scallops in these areas before the season closes on March 31.
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 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.
Bay scallop harvest in Peconic Bays historically averaged about 300,000 pounds per year and provided commercial harvesters with a significant portion of their income in the late fall and winter months. The bay scallop population on the east end was decimated in 1985 and through 1994 due to the occurrence and repeated blooms of the harmful algal bloom known as the Brown Tide. State law was amended in 2005 and subsequently DEC adopted regulations in 2006, with the support of commercial harvesters and east end towns, to delay the opening date of the bay scallop season by three weeks to allow for growth, maturity and spawning potential (reproduction) to be maximized before scallops could be harvested. Additionally, bay scallop restoration efforts have been undertaken in Peconic Bays to jumpstart the resource and help to restore this commercially important fishery.
DEC's extension of the bay scallop season will have a positive impact on the shellfish industry and state's economy by providing additional harvesting opportunities for commercial harvesters and increasing availability of seafood products for shippers and local seafood markets. New York's commercial bay scallop harvesters will have access to adult legal-sized bay scallops that are likely to die before the season opens again in November and mitigate financial hardship caused by the prolonged loss of shellfishing opportunities this winter due to extensive icing of local waters.
For more information about bay scallop harvesting, contact DEC's Shellfisheries Section during normal business hours at (631) 444-0477. Additionally, information about bay scallop harvest is available on DEC's website.