A hearing was held by the committee drafting the county legislation to grant leases to aquaculturalists to grow oysters in some areas of Peconic and Gardiners Bays. The hearing was held at Riverhead Town Hall Thurs night, April 17th 2008, and baymen from all over Suffolk voiced their concerns over the lack of a provision to assess the natural clam stock on these leases, and the missing prohibition of hydraulic dredging on these leases where there are natural clam stocks.
It seems that an oyster farmer, before planting his oysters, hydraulically dredges the entire leased area. The purpose is to remove predators such as starfish and such. At the same time, the oyster farmer harvests all the natural clams in his leased area, at huge profit, and at the expense of the baymen and public. In addition to harvesting all the clams they didn’t buy from the county, the dredging operation completely destroys and denudes the bottom.
The aquaculturists said that they alone are responsible for our having ANY oysters after the die off on the 90’s, and that their farms provide good habitat for clams, scallops and fin fish. They say they are good stewards of their grounds and they represent the future of sustainable shell fishing.
The committee took the comments into consideration and will report their conclusions….stay tuned.