There is a silver lining to the prolonged winter for local fishermen and seafood lovers: Bay scallop season has been extended an extra month to help area fishermen recoup losses contributed to the brutally cold weather.
Drastically low temperatures caused East End water bodies to ice over for more than a month of the regular bay scallop season, preventing fishermen from harvesting in Peconic Bays since early February. To help mitigate financial hardship caused by extensive icing of local embayments, the state Department of Environmental Conservation extended the 2015 season on Friday from March 31 to April 30.
Shelter Island bayman John Kotula said there is still plenty of mature scallops left to harvest now that the water has thawed.
“Normally by now, everyone has been done anyway, but this year there are still more [scallops] out there to catch,” Mr. Kotula said. “This will give us some extra time to get more done.”
Charlie Manwaring, owner of Southold Fish Market, said the news bodes well for business and scallop lovers, who are more likely to see scallops on area menus even after the season ends.
In order to keep scallops on the menu into the summer Mr. Manwaring freezes a portion of winter harvest.
“During those six weeks when no one was able to go out I had to use up all my frozen scallops,” he said. “Hopefully now with the extra four weeks the guys will be able to go harvest and, if all goes well, well have them [into the next season.]”
Bay scallop harvests have been on the up and up in the past few years according to DEC.
In 2014, bay scallop hauls were just over 100,000 pounds, 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 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.
Though the final numbers for this season are still out, DEC commissioner Joe Martens said Friday that commercial harvesters have lost a significant portion of their income.
“The extension of the bay scallop season is critical to maximizing the income potential by commercial harvesters,” he 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.”
DEC said next season’s harvest would not be affected by a one-month extension. 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.