Local Atlantic bay scallop harvest slows, prices rise

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Scallops for sale at Southold Fish Market.
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Scallops for sale at Southold Fish Market.

This year’s scalloping season has area baymen working harder and residents paying more for those tasty, blue-eyed gems of the Peconic.

The cautious optimism that greeted the Nov. 4 opening day of the local Atlantic bay scallop season is no more, as those searching for and those selling the popular shellfish said the season is “worse” than most.

“It can take a half a day at least to get one [bushel],” said Ed Densieski of Riverhead. “My numbers are definitely off.”

While commercial baymen are permitted to harvest up to 10 bushels a day, Mr. Densieski said a full day’s work is only landing him two or three bushels at best.

Southold Baymen’s Association president Nathan Andruski said he was also seeing limited landings, catching about three or four bushels a day – depending on the weather.

While area fishermen are feeling the pressure out on the water, area residents are feeling it at the register.

The cost for a pound of Peconic bay scallops has ticked up from an initial $18 to the current cost of $21, said Southold Fish Market owner Charlie Manwaring.

“The price is definitely up,” Mr. Manwaring said.

But, he added, it’s better to buy scallops on this side of the bay rather than in the pricier “Hamptons” market.

“It is a lot cheaper on this side than it is on the South Fork,” Mr. Manwaring said.

A pound of scallops at Cor-J Seafood in Hampton Bays will run you $24.75, or $29.95 at Clamman Seafood Market in Southampton, according to sales associates at each location.

Mr. Manwaring said the quantity is “probably half of what we were doing last year — and the price last year was cheap because there were so many around,” he said. “I sell out every day.”

Ken Homan of Braun Seafood in Cutchogue said a pound of scallops cost just $12 about this time last year, adding that it has been difficult to freeze scallops to offer to customers year round.

“Last year at this time I had frozen over 6,000 pounds and this year I have only froze over a couple hundred,” he said, saying it might impact the availability later on.

The scalloping season ends on March 31.

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