11/29/12 8:00am
11/29/2012 8:00 AM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Charlie Manwaring of Southold Fish Market with a fresh batch of Peconic Bay scallops.

Scallop season didn’t begin with its usual bang the first Monday in November thanks to Hurricane Sandy, but fish markets and restaurant menus are stocked with the cold-weather shellfish in time for the holidays.

Before the hurricane, scientists who study bay scallops had been finding many empty shells, known as “cluckers,” in scallop grounds that had promised a bumper crop.

Then, when the hurricane hit, the state DEC pushed off opening day to Nov. 13 due to potential water contamination because of the storm’s flood tide. Many areas in the eastern Peconics were opened sooner after the DEC determined that the water was clean, and the few scallopers who ventured out found plenty of live scallops among the empty shells.

But Phillip Tocci, Riverhead’s “Clam Man” who runs a shellfish stand on the north side of Route 58, said many baymen have told him they’re having trouble selling the scallops they have, because of public concern over whether they’re safe to eat.

“The water is fine. The scallops are fine,” he said this week. “I have people asking constantly ‘Is the water all right? Are the scallops all right?’ The public is not after them like they usually are.”

Mr. Tocci added that many seafood restaurants were damaged in the storm, putting a dent in the wholesale accounts baymen rely on.

He said he hasn’t been catching his limit of 10 bushels of scallops per day, but he has been pulling in enough to meet the market demand.

Southold Fish Market owner Charlie Manwaring said Tuesday that, while there was a big scallop die-off due to unknown causes earlier this year, there are plenty of scallops still in the water.

“Certain areas were closed after the hurricane, so not everyone was in one area opening week,” he said. “They’re doing really well in certain areas. It’s just hit or miss. I think we’ll have them right through to March 31,” the official end of the season.

Mr. Manwaring said baymen are seeing “tons of bugs,” or baby scallops, which will reach harvest size next year.

He said the retail price this week is about $17 per pound, down from $19 when the season opened, although he expects the price to rise again as the supply thins out later in the season.

“Some areas just opened up, so we have a little more product,” he said.

Mr. Manwaring said baymen were lucky that many of this year’s scallops were in deep water, since they are often thrown up on shore by hurricane surges if they are in shallow water.

He said the boats belonging to the 15 to 20 baymen he buys scallops from were also safe during the storm.

“We really got lucky out here,” he said.

Recreational scalloper Ed Densieski of Riverhead missed the first few days of the season, which opened in some local waters on the day of the nor’easter that hit shortly after the hurricane.

“It was nasty,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t go opening day.”

Mr. Densieski said it appears there was a scallop die-off in Cutchogue Harbor and that by the time he got to the scalloping grounds off the Orient Causeway on Nov. 10, “a lot of it was picked through” and he didn’t find any.

“There was definitely some die-off this year, but in some spots they were huge. They were the size of marshmallows,” he said, declining to disclose where he found them.

“If you want to put the time in, you’ll get some,” he said.

[email protected]

09/18/12 4:00pm
09/18/2012 4:00 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister during his presentation onTuesday.

The state of nitrogen loading in Suffolk County’s bays has reached crisis proportions, says Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, who, as part of a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, announced plans to fight against major sources of groundwater pollution.

At a press conference at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge in Quogue Tuesday, Mr. McAllister and his attorney, Reed Super, announced that they just submitted a petition to the New York State DEC asking for modifications to 1,338 State Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (SPDES) permits for sewage treatment and septic systems in Suffolk County.

Mr. Super said these systems are under federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act because they are point source discharges to groundwater that is used by Long Islanders for their drinking water supply.

He said 79 of the sewage treatment plants and 796 of the septic systems that have SPDES permits in Suffolk County discharge directly to groundwater that is already not meeting drinking water standards. Four of the septic systems discharge directly to impaired surface waters and 70 discharge to groundwater that is directly hydrologically connected to surface waters.

Mr. Super said the septic system permits apply to systems with holding tanks of 1,000 gallons or larger, more than three times the size of the average residential system, and are used at large hotels, restaurants and other commercial establishments.

Mr. McAllister said the county’s Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan, released last year, was quickly shoved under the rug, despite the fact that it showed nitrogen concentrations are increasing exponentially in Long Island’s aquifers.

He said the study proved that 70 percent of the nitrogen in the Great South Bay was due to wastewater, and said he believes the same percentage is likely due to wastewater in the Peconic Bays, though other scientists have claimed the nitrogen levels were due to atmospheric deposition of nitrogen in rainwater.

Mr. McAllister added that the drinking water standard that requires nitrogen levels of less than 10 milligrams per liter is 20 times higher than the level needed to have a healthy marine ecosystem.

“This legal initiative is an attempt to get the State of New York to do its job,” he said, adding that he hopes the state will revisit the permits and ask the polluters to use new methods to control pollution, including the Nitrex and BESST small-scale sewage treatment systems, both of which are approved by the county but can be costly to install.

Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine, who was also at the press conference, said he has tried to get the county legislature to use part of the quarter-percent county sales tax for drinking water protection to fund grants to property owners who want to upgrade their septic systems. He said the legislature refused to consider the idea.

“We have huge challenges ahead and I fully intend to continue what I’m doing [on this issue],” said Mr. Romaine, who recently announced he is running for Brookhaven Town Supervisor.

“Not all of this county is going to be sewered, nor should it be,” he said. “We have to provide funding for people to replace their systems.

“Kevin’s absolutely right about the policies of Suffolk County. We’ve allowed the proliferation of inexpensive, inefficient sewage treatment plants.”

[email protected]

09/18/12 2:15pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A U.S. pararescue team competes in a rodeo on the Peconic Bay Tuesday.

The threat of high winds and rain didn’t stop the Air National Guard from hosting its rescue rodeo in the Peconic Bay Tuesday morning.

Six U.S. pararescue teams, known as PJs, and one all-volunteer Sea Rescue group from South Africa (Cape Town, Plattenberg and Port Elizabeth) showed off their skills in a race of five-person teams on inflatable Zodiac boats.

“[The race] requires a little bit of thoughtful navigation, breath holding and other skills we use in rescues and other missions,” said Master Sergeant Jules Roy, a PJ with the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach. The 106th is hosting the rodeo, so its members are not participating. It is held every two years and the 106th won the event in Kentucky four years ago.

The race, which began at 8:30 a.m., went from Treasure Cove Marina in Riverhead to Greenport and back. It’s part of a week-long reunion of pararescue technicians.

They headed out on the Peconic River to the County 105 bridge propelled only by paddle, since it’s a no-wake zone. Once there, a designated PJ had to climb a 30-foot rope to the top of the bridge and record his time. After that, the teams headed to Greenport, powered by a 30-horsepower motor.

Once in Greenport, the teams competed in precision parachuting over Great Peconic Bay. The five-person Zodiac teams then had to dive without scuba gear into the harbor to retrieve a keg full of water, representing the illegal liquor that flowed into the village during Prohibition, and unlock a cable to free cans of fuel needed to return to Riverhead.

[nggallery id=433 template=galleryview]

See more photos on suffolktimes.com

09/18/12 8:00am

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Divers worked in Greenport Harbor by Claudio’s Restaurant Monday setting up for Tuesday’s unusual Air National Guard ‘rodeo.’

Seven teams of Air National Guard rescue squad members will show off their considerable skills Tuesday during an unusual “rodeo” involving an unusual race of inflatable Zodiac boats from Riverhead to Greenport and back.

That competition, and others including precision parachuting over Great Peconic Bay, are part of a week-long reunion of famed pararescue technicians, known also as PJ’s. The five-person Zodiac teams will head out to Greenport starting at 9 a.m., where they must dive without scuba geat into the harbor to retrieve a keg full of water, representing the illegal liquor that flowed into the village during Prohibition, and unlock a cable to free cans of fuel needed to return to Riverhead.

The race “requires a little bit of thoughtful navigation, breath holding and other skills we use in rescues and other missions,” said Master Sergeant Jules Roy, a PJ with the 106th.

The race starts at 9 a.m., with one boat leaving every half hour. The round trip is expected to take roughly two hours.

Check back later in the day for photos of the event.

09/06/12 5:00pm
09/06/2012 5:00 PM
Rust Tide, East End, North Fork, Peconic Bay

COURTESY FILE PHOTO | The Peconic Bay is no stranger to algal blooms.

First there was the brown tide, then the red tide and now, floating in waters at either end of the Peconic estuary system, are patches of what New Englanders informally call “rust tide.”

It poses no threat to humans but can be deadly to finfish and shellfish.

Rust tide is a collection of microscopic algae that’s been showing up in the Peconics in late summer during the past several years.


09/03/12 4:00pm
09/03/2012 4:00 PM

SUFFOLK TIMES FILE PHOTO | Luckily nobody was seriously injured in this boating mishap near Greenport last year.

The Peconic Bay Power Squadron released this week a new schedule for upcoming boater safety classes and seminars. The following is a list of the events that will be offered in our area:


Subject: Hurricanes and Boats,
Squadron: Peconic Bay
Contact: Peter Young  Phone: 631-298-4326
Email:  [email protected]
Location: West Marine
Address: 1089 Old Country Rd
City: Riverhead, NY 11901
Start Date: SEP 08, 2012  Time: 01:00PM
Cost: FREE (Advanced Registration Required)

Subject: How to Use a Chart,
Squadron: Peconic Bay
Contact: Fred Roffe  Phone: 631-728-3721
Email: [email protected]
Location: West Marine
Address: 1089 Old Country Road (Rt58)
City: Riverhead, NY 11901
Start Date: OCT 13, 2012  Time: 01:00PM
Cost: $45.00

Subject: Using GPS,
Squadron: Peconic Bay
Contact: Fred Roffe  Phone: 631-728-3721
Email: [email protected]
Location: West Marine
Address: 1089 Old Country Road (Rt58)
City: Riverhead, NY 11901
Start Date: NOV 10, 2012  Time: 01:00PM
Cost: $45.00

Subject: Basic Coastal Navigation,
Squadron: Peconic Bay
Contact: Fred Smith  Phone: 631-298-1930
Email: [email protected]
Location: West Marine
Address: 1089 Old Country Road (Rt58)
City: Riverhead, NY 11901
Start Date: JAN 12, 2013  Time: 01:00PM
Cost: $45.00

Advanced Classes

Subject: Seamanship,
Squadron: Peconic Bay
Contact: Larry Hynes  Phone: 631-929-4369
Email: [email protected]
Location: George Young Community Center
Address: Rt25 and Jamesport Avenue
City: Jamesport, NY 11947
Start Date: OCT 02, 2012  Time: 07:00PM
Cost: $75.00

08/16/12 7:00pm
08/16/2012 7:00 PM

TODD GARDINER/LONG ISLAND AQUARIUM PHOTO | Jellyfish, such as these moon jellies on display at Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, are a rare sight in local waters lately.

If someone pens a folk song about the Peconic Bay estuary this summer it could be titled, “Where have all the jellyfish gone?”

And the answer is, nobody knows.

While jellyfish large and small are usually the bane of bathers’ and boaters’ existence in mid-August, there have been few sightings of the gelatinous zooplankton in either the bays or Long Island Sound. That holds true for the large red lion’s mane jellies and the smaller milky white sea nettles, the species seen most often in local waters.

Marine scientists can only guess why.

“It may have something to do with the water temperature or the water temperature over the winter, but we’re not sure,” said Emerson Hasbrouck, director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension marine program in Riverhead. In both cases water temperatures were found to be somewhat higher than normal.

“Water temperature controls a lot of things, so a few degrees can change many things,” including migration and reproduction, Mr. Hasbrouck said.

Salinity levels, which tend not to vary much from year to year, are of less concern, he said.

Mr. Hasbrouck said he’s never before heard of jellyfish numbers so low in his 24 years with the cooperative extension research group.

The marine program has no jellyfish research projects under way, but staffers conducting field work on other studies have noticed the dearth of jellies, Mr. Hasbrouck added. The extension program’s phone lines have not been jammed with calls questioning the jellies’ disappearance.

“Over the years we hear more about when jellyfish are in high numbers, but people don’t usually complain when the numbers are down,” he said.

He’s certainly not complaining.

“It makes it easier for our eelgrass researchers, who dive almost every day,” Mr. Hasbrouck said.

Lifeguard Ryan Farrell of Jamesport said there’s been no need to refill the vinegar container he keeps with his equipment while watching over swimmers at the Southold Town bay beach in New Suffolk. Vinegar is a common treatment for jellyfish stings.

“I’ve seen one or two this season,” he said from his chair Tuesday afternoon. That’s far from the norm.

“In mid-August, you can’t go into the water sometimes,” said Mr. Farrell, who is in his fourth year as a lifeguard.

So far this summer just one swimmer has come seeking treatment for a sting.

“We all have theories why, but it’s anybody’s guess,” Mr. Farrell said.

Nearby, Candi Jacobs of Mattituck and Jackie Rodgers of Cutchogue were catching some sun while their kids splashed about in the shallows earlier this week. They were only too happy that jellyfish stings weren’t high on their list of parental concerns.

“They were here in early June, but then they seemed to dissipate,” Ms. Jacobs said. “I’m not complaining and the kids are not complaining.”

Megan and Christopher Eilers, also of Mattituck, were also relieved the chance was low that a stinging tentacle — perhaps chopped by a passing power boat — would find its way to their 1-year-old son, Chris.

“We were talking about it just the other night,” Ms. Eilers said. “We’ve seen one this year. This is the least I’ve ever seen and we’re really quite happy.”

[email protected]

06/22/12 7:00pm
06/22/2012 7:00 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Cornell Cooperative Extension and Empire State Development Corporation staff toss adult scallops into the Peconic Bay off Cedar Beach Friday afternoon. The state recently awarded a $182,000 grant to the project.

The folks working to rebuild the stock of Peconic Bay scallops have a new best friend in the state government.

Researchers at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Peconic Bay scallop restoration program, based at Cornell’s Cedar Beach, Southold, marine laboratory, had a special visit Friday afternoon from Kenneth Adams, commissioner of the Empire State Development Corporation. The corporation awarded a $182,000 grant earlier this year toward the continuing scallop project.

Lead researchers Dr. Stephen Tettelbach of Long Island University and Dr. Chris Smith of Cornell said they’ve used the funds to expand the hatchery and hire additional employees to help grow scallops to full size in the lab.

“We’ve increased production in our hatchery,” said Dr. Tettelbach. “We plan to grow the scallops from spring to market size in the fall. This is the first time it’s being done in New York State. Other states are selling cultured scallops.”

Dr. Tettelbach said the scallops, which are smaller than wild scallops, will likely be sold whole in the shell.

“It’s a different way of marketing, a different market niche,” he said.

Since scallops are short-lived, usually living no more than two years, their contribution to the population is limited to one spawning season.

Dr. Smith said program researchers have also used grant funds to expand their long-line grow-out system in Orient Harbor. In that system, scallop larvae collect on a mesh surface inside an aerated bag that protects them from predators. Initially, researchers were using the bags, known as spat collectors, as a tool to quantify the number of scallops in the bay. They’re now using them as nurseries for scallops cultivated by humans.

“We’re now using Japanese techniques where you use spat collectors to produce numbers of scallops,” he said. “It’s increasing our capability of spawning and growing scallops.”

Mr. Adams said his office had received marching orders from Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide $785 million in grants by asking regional Economic Development Corporations for advice on the most crucial projects in their areas, instead of having the state dictate where the money would go. More than 700 grants were awarded.

Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and a former head of the Long Island Power Authority, brought the scallop project to Mr. Adams’ attention.

“This is an incredible, historical, vital natural asset,” Mr. Adams said of the scallop fishery. “Fisheries are a very important part of the regional economy. How would I know about this project sitting back in Albany?

“It really worked well,” he added. “I’d like to think this is the beginning of a long and healthy relationship.”

“I think scallops brought us over the line,” Mr. Law said Friday afternoon at a ceremony on a barge overlooking the laboratory. “Everybody had high tech, but nobody else had scallops.”

Dr. Smith estimated that the scallop industry, which had a negligible economic value for years after the brown tide destroyed the fishery in 1985, brought $3 million in economic activity to the region in 2010 after his research team helped to rebuild the fishery. He estimated the 2010 numbers were about 10 percent of the value of the industry before the brown tide hit.

Dr. Smith said his group hopes to continue building the number of scallops in the bays until there are three to five scallops per square meter on the bottom.

“I think we’re within a few years of that,” he said.

“Can you do lobsters next?” asked Mr. Adams.

“Lobsters are a whole different story,” said Dr. Smith.

[email protected]