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New Yorkers Shell Out for Shellfish

August 3, 2009

NEW YORK - After being almost wiped out by repeated blooms of the "brown tide" organism in the 1980s and 1990s, New York Bay scallops are making a comeback. Wayne Grothe, marine projects director at the Nature Conservancy, says that's good news for the health of Long Island's Peconic Bay and the local economy. He says a team of volunteers and staff has been working for seven years to restore the scallop population.

Back in the '80s when the scallops were abundant and a highly-regarded local delicacy, the harvest brought in just under two million dollars a year. Now, Grothe says, the local scallop catch could be worth two to three times as much.

"We have quite a few commercial fisherman still on Long Island, and the scallop harvest may be worth five or six million dollars, so it has a significant impact on the economy."

Right now, volunteers and staff from the Nature Conservancy are tending to 350,000 tiny scallops that will soon be introduced to the Peconic, where they will act like filters for the bay, and by next year could be served for lunch. For many fisherman, scallops are the main source of income during the fall and winter months.

Helping local fisherman and the area's economy is one reason the Nature Conservancy got into the restoration project. Additionally, Grothe says, scallops play a vital role in the health of the Peconic Bay ecosystem.

"They act like filters in a fish tank, they help keep the waters clean, plus they're used as food by other species - and you know the Conservancy's mission is to preserve biodiversity."

Cornell University, Suffolk County and the towns of East Hampton, South Hampton, Southold and Shelter Island are all helping with the restoration project.

There's more about restoring New York scallops on the Web at www.nature.org

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY