Town dumps thousands of clams in Bellport Bay
Approximately, a quarter-million 3-month-old clams, measuring about 15-25 mm, were released into Bellport Bay last week on Friday, Sept. 7 as part of the Town of Brookhaven’s initiative to re-establish the shellfish population in the Great South Bay.
Each year for the past 25 years, according to supervisor Ed Romaine, the town has dumped anywhere from 1 to 2 million clams in addition to about 2 million oysters. This year, the town dumped 1.5 million clams, which, Romaine explained, are grown at their facility in Manorville, then brought to different sites and scattered across hard bottoms with, preferably, a shell base in the Great South Bay.
The clams dumped last week were the first to go into the Bellport Bay this year. Romaine said they were dumped near the inlet in hopes of better survival. Other dumps this year included the Patchogue Bay and multiple sites near Fire Island, where protection is greater.
“They are large enough that their chances of survival are good,” Romaine said of the clams. “We dumped them in the bay and now we have to pray to God they take root and we help restore the population.”
On hand were town bay management specialists Craig Strong and Dwight Surgan as well as the bay constables, who took them out to the sites for clam scattering.
“We scatter them off the boat, but not too many in one spot,” Strong said, explaining that they try to avoid crabs from having a feast.
Prior to release, he explained, the clams are produced by temperature controlling adult males and females and keeping them cool until ready to spawn. Once ready, they are separated in a black tray with flowing water and microalgae for food, and the temperature is brought up, fertilizing the eggs.
“It’s a long haul to bring the bay back, but this is the best growth we’ve had in many years,” he added. “We just hope they survive out there.”
Romaine recalled a time when clamming as a young kid made him and others decent money. He said the town will work until the day that is restored. Councilman Neil Foley added that the effort “takes not just one department but many to bring the bay back to health.”