Ecosystem Targets and Supporting Indicators
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While current New York data was available for the entire time series, Connecticut harvest data was not reported from 2010-2015. Harvesters re-established reporting their data to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture’s Shellfish Sanitation Program in 2016. In spite of the 5-year data gap it appears that oyster harvests have increased while clams have declined slightly.
The hard clam harvest more than tripled in Connecticut in the first decade of the 21st century, in part because some lobster fishermen had turned to clamming as a result of the Long Island Sound 1998-1999 lobster die-off. In New York, clam production increased by more than 70 percent from 2012 to 2013.
There were likely many factors involved in the increase, including increased aquaculture production, and the reopening of shellfish beds in outer North Hempstead Harbor after a concerted local, state, and federal effort to improve water quality.
Oystering saw a resurgence in the 1980s and 1990s due to successful oyster culture practices. However, the large commercial oyster industry peaked in 1992 and declined mainly due to MSX, a parasitic disease.
Oyster harvests began to rebound in 2006. In Connecticut, this was due in part to efforts to restore and protect oyster habitats. From 2011-2015, Connecticut counts were not available (see data note), but in 2016, resource managers once again began receiving harvest numbers reported from Connecticut shell-fishers.
From 2012 to 2014, New York’s oyster harvest increased by more than 370 percent, in part due to increased aquaculture production. There were also increased harvests by baymen in Huntington/Northport Bays, and Western Long Island Sound. However, from 2014 to 2015, there was a decrease in oyster harvest, due to a major hatchery halting their seeding process, an outbreak of vibrio and an increase of wild oysters being sold for less.
Specific goals and time frames for this target will be developed after considering shellfish management plans under development such as the Connecticut statewide plan. This target relies on accurate reporting of harvest from shellfishers to the states. Connecticut has lacked sufficient data on shellfish harvest since 2010.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the Connecticut Bureau of Aquaculture track the weight (by bags or bushel) and economic value of oysters, clams, and scallops commercially harvested each year.
The filter-feeding capacity of shellfish can help keep near-shore waters clean by controlling phytoplankton abundance in the water column.
The annual harvest numbers for oysters, clams, and scallops are an indicator of both abundances as well as the socioeconomic importance of these species to Long Island Sound. Since harvest is only allowed in approved waters, this target is also an indirect reflection of water quality in the near-shore environment. This is particularly true in Connecticut where shellfishers can only harvest on their own leased beds.
Samarra Scantlebury, NYSDEC[email protected]
Kathleen Knight, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection [email protected]
NYSDEC and CT Bureau of Aquaculture