Formal Letter to U.S. Department of Commerce to Declare Bay Scallop Fishery a Commercial Fishery Failure Available Here
Fishery Failure Designation Would Enable Compensation for Scallop Harvesters and Support Restoration Efforts
Develops New Plan to Restore Scallop Fishery and Research Causes of Scallop Mortality
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross calling for federal action to help New York's scallop fishery following the sudden and significant decline in Peconic bay scallops off the coast of Long Island. The scallop harvest provides significant income to the commercial fishing industry, fish markets, and restaurants throughout the region and Governor Cuomo has requested that the U.S. Commerce Department declare the bay scallop fishery a commercial fishery failure and provide direct economic relief for the New York fishing industry.
"New York is actively working to determine the cause of the recent bay scallop die-off and this federal designation would help our efforts to support commercial fisherman while addressing the population loss," Governor Cuomo said. "We will continue to lead innovative programs to improve water quality and restore valuable shellfish populations. Protecting and enhancing New York's marine environment is vital to maintain robust economies in coastal communities that rely on healthy ecosystems and stable fisheries."
The Peconic Estuary system is located on the eastern end of Long Island, between the North and South Forks and a prime location for bay scallops. Congress designated the Peconic Estuary as an estuary of national significance in 1992, leading to the creation of the Peconic Estuary Program (PEP).
This year's catastrophic loss of more than 90 percent of adult bay scallops in the Peconic Bays affects both commercial baymen and local seafood dealers and markets that depend on this resource. In 2017 and 2018, bay scallop landings in the Peconic Bay Estuary exceeded 108,000 pounds, with a dockside value of $1.6 million. Early season population surveys predicted another great harvest ahead, but by early fall, the fishery collapsed. The federal support requested by Governor Cuomo would provide economic assistance to scallop fishermen and support monitoring and restoration efforts necessary to rehabilitate the fishery.
As directed by the Governor, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is actively working with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Stony Brook University, and other partners to research and identify contributing factors that may have played a role in the recent bay scallop die-off in the Peconic Bays. DEC, CCE, and Suffolk County worked successfully to restore New York's bay scallop population when it was decimated in the 1980s due to repeated algal blooms, known as brown tide, and DEC will continue working with local partners to investigate and address this most recent scallop population loss.
New York State is taking several steps to examine and address the impacts of the die-off, including:
- Participating in a Peconic Estuary Program technical committee that is bringing together experts to review the available data and current assessments to help determine the cause of the die-off, as well as future research and monitoring needs;
- Exploring the restoration of the wild bay scallop population through expansion of seeding and seed production;
- Working to expand current scallop monitoring efforts for improved estimates on population, size, health, and resiliency;
- Examining the potential for the development of superior strains of bay scallops that are more resistant to biological and environmental stressors (such as high temperature related to climate change) to support the long-term restoration and success of bay scallops in Peconic Bays; and
- Expediting requests for DEC's Scallop Salvage and Relay Permits if needed to protect them from washing up on the shoreline and increase their survival through the winter.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "DEC is steadfast to expand research, monitoring, and restoration efforts to augment and enhance bay scallop populations on Long Island. The recent die-off in Peconic Bay has once again demonstrated the reality of climate change that will have rippling effects on our local communities and I applaud the Governor for seeking this federal fishery disaster designation. Under his environmental leadership, DEC scientists are working with top researchers and local organizations to identify and develop an unprecedented restoration program to ensure New York's marine fisheries are sustainable for generations to come."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, "Shellfish farming has been a part of Long Island's heritage for decades, but with this year's collapse of the Peconic Bay Scallop population, nearly 1,700 Long Island bayman, dealers, shippers, and shuckers are left reeling with financial hardship. I want to thank Governor Cuomo and the DEC for taking the first step in declaring the Bay Scallop species a fishery disaster. This will go a long way in helping our fishing professionals during this time of need and will help safeguarding the long-term future of this industry."
The bay scallop disaster response is just the latest element of the state's critical efforts to restore marine habitat, improve water quality, increase coastal resiliency, and support local economies. The Governor's $10.4 million Long Island Shellfish Restoration Project (LISRP) is also underway to establish five shellfish sanctuary sites stocked with up to 168 million local-grown and harvested shellfish, juvenile and adult shellfish. LISRP is being led by DEC in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Stony Brook University, municipalities and volunteer organizations and has already made significant progress in planting millions of juvenile and adult clams and oysters in one of the Long Island shellfish sanctuaries. They work to improve water quality, mitigate harmful algal blooms, restore native shellfish populations, increase biodiversity, and bolster resiliency in coastal communities. In addition, as part of the Governor's Vital Brooklyn initiative, $200,000 in state funding is helping to expanding the BOP's school-based curriculum, increasing opportunities for at-risk youth to learn about shoreline and habitat restoration efforts in the Jamaica Bay and exposing more than 9,500 students to oyster habitat restoration and the Staten Island Living Breakwaters Project.
Governor Cuomo recently announced that in next year's State of the State address, he will introduce an aggressive nation-leading habitat initiative called "Revive Mother Nature." Revive Mother Nature will support critical environmental restoration efforts, to help increase fish and wildlife habitat while also making communities more resilient in the face of climate change and severe weather.