Restrictions proposed for clamming in Great South Bay
Posted December 23 2009 - 3:31 AM
copy and paste from Newsday.com
Whether the clams were abundant or scarce, commercial clammers on the Great South Bay have always been free to take as many as they want.
Now - more than three decades after the spectacular crash of the bay's hard clam population - local governments are considering whether to block new applicants from clamming and impose daily harvest limits. The recommendations come as communities try to restore a fishery decimated by overharvesting, pollution and environmental changes in the Great South Bay.
The proposals have yet to be finalized or put to a vote by the towns they concern - Babylon, Islip and Brookhaven. But they have already set scientists, environmental advocates and some local officials against baymen who say there aren't enough clammers left on the bay to make a dent.
"Why put a moratorium?" said Don Smith, a bayman from Patchogue who blames poor water quality for low clam harvests. "There's nobody going clam digging."
Local clam harvests hit an all-time high in the mid-1970s, then declined in the next decade. The population has yet to recover.
Last year, Babylon, Islip and Brookhaven issued 158 town shellfish permits. The state issued 477 permits to town residents, many of whom likely fish outside town waters. The three towns own about 50,000 acres of underwater land in the Great South Bay.
The proposed changes come out of an intergovernmental group formed last year by Suffolk County to develop management and protection plans for hard clams in the Great South Bay. Members include environmental advocates, shellfish industry representatives and local, state and federal officials.
The idea is to provide breathing room for millions of baby clams that the towns and the Nature Conservancy have been seeding across the bay bottoms to boost the populations. Clam surveys this year indicate that recurring blooms of brown tide algae may have killed off many of the juveniles that were hailed last fall as a sign that restoration efforts were working.
"It hasn't wiped out the initial gains," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. He said the rules were needed to help restore the fishery. "Overharvesting before we're ready could impede our ability to get long-range sustainability."
The group wants the towns to set up a separate hard clam permit that would only allow commercial harvesting by those who are already active clammers. At least 450 diggers in the three towns would be eligible for the permit, according to the recommendations.
Baymen would be limited to 2,000 hard clams per day under the proposed rules. Recreational clammers could take only 50, instead of the 100-clam limit set by the state.
New York State does not set a commercial harvest limit for clams, but towns can adopt stricter laws. Seven other Long Island towns have daily limits that range from 2,000 clams to 10 bushels, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Some baymen said local governments should focus on opening up more areas to shellfishing and improving water quality in the bay through stricter regulation of sewage plants and other polluters.
"Basically all we're saying is if they give us water quality along the road, we'll have clams," said Bill Hamilton, vice president of the Brookhaven Baymen's Association and a member of the committee that came up with the proposals. Hamilton said he voted against them but was overruled. "A lot of the things that they're trying to get in place, it's like putting the cart before the horse," he said.
But those who have been working to restore the bay's decimated clams say the changes are necessary to protect the remaining population, particularly if clams start to rebound.
"If word gets out that things are looking good on the bay there could be a tremendous increase in the number of permits and diggers out there," said William Wise, director of the Living Marine Resources Institute at Stony Brook University. "It's a real concern that any success we might have would be quickly overcome by a significant increase in harvest activity."
Posted December 23 2009 - 10:06 AM
How can a company that seeded its own clams. Had thousands of acres of bay bottom, been in busness for I think at least 50 years have to give it up. The clams are not surviving. At one time there were enought clams for 10,000 permits to be given out by the state.
Posted December 23 2009 - 11:34 AM
What's the downside to cleaner water? We swim in it, we eat from it. The only downside is cost, and when you're paying to avoid being knee deep in your own waste, it's money well spent.
Posted December 23 2009 - 1:06 PM
Willie is right there were more than 10,0000 commercially licensed shellfisherman in the 70's. I know because my license was over 10,000 and I had it since 1968.
I say the bay was mismanaged because of the way the Towns and State dealt with the uncertified waters and seed diggers at the time. Additionally Southwest Sewer District, and bayside development changed salinity and algae levels in the bay. Brown tide wiped out the eel grass beds that lined the entire southern portion of the bay from Kismet to the Smiths Point bridge and beyond.
Of course if the Towns said it was their policies that ended the clamming industry in the bay, that wouldn't look too good politically. It's much easier to blame a few hard working souls, now that no one is left out there.
One thing I'd like to see added to the requirements for obtaining a shellfish license is a valid legal Social Security Number.
Posted December 23 2009 - 1:51 PM
The overall runoff is also a huge issue. Its amazing how often the local bay beaches are closed in the summer.
Let's be honest, the general population really doen't give a sh*t whats going on in the bay, as long as they can run the boats in the summer, and work up a good buzz.
Posted December 23 2009 - 2:11 PM
Let's be honest, the general population really doen't give a ---- whats going on in the bay, as long as they can run the boats in the summer, and work up a good buzz.
You got that right, one population that seems to be growing is the BWI crowd.
It's become all too common, and deadly.
On another point, it seems just like Nature Conservancy to limit access,(to shellfish this time) rather than come up with a plan, that is equitable to all the citizens. They always seem to be shutting things down. Next they'll be stringing off GSB.
Posted December 23 2009 - 5:42 PM
I can't believe they want to impose restrictions on the few guys who still dig.
I've had it with Long Island. When my youngest daughter finishes college in 6 years I'm outta here........I hope But where does one go????
Posted December 23 2009 - 6:23 PM
I'm with ya man. I always thought I'd just move east. Now I'm thinking ......
the land of NO! is spreading. I just got a chance to see the paper, if that's the same Don Smith he was a hell of a good tonger in his day, one of Carlson's Hippies. A great bunch of guys.
Posted December 23 2009 - 8:20 PM
Posted December 24 2009 - 8:50 AM
Posted December 24 2009 - 9:24 AM
Posted December 24 2009 - 10:09 AM
West is always a good start. What year about did they open up that sewer district? The reason they want to impose restrictions right now is so that if they can improve the population it wont get decimated with over harvesting in the future.
Posted December 24 2009 - 10:10 AM
Posted December 24 2009 - 10:22 AM
Posted December 24 2009 - 10:33 AM
Pete one of the baymen I know went to South Hampton in the early eightys From what I hear he is now working lobsters in the sound.
You know Willy that was alot of guys dreams, pound that bay really hard, save up and get into another fishery like lobsters. You had to save quite a bit of money, because there were very few banks willing to lend money to a self employed clamdigger. Oystermans Savings was a LI bank that would lend. I paid 18% on my first new truck in 1981.
The local lobster supply company that used to make traps, and have two semi trailers constantly filled with bait is almost empty. They are still open from 5AM to 9AM but they have nothing in stock. I bought their last coil of warp a month ago.
I hope your friend is doing better than most of the guys.
I was thinking it was John German as well. I thought the Huether's did the same thing out of Mattituck. Merry Christmas to all.