Peconic Bay scallops a bust, still


After two deadly years for the Peconic Bay scallop population, there was not much hope for this year’s scallop season, which opens on November 1.

The pessimism has been confirmed.

“At the end of August, mortality was almost 100 percent at all the sites we monitor, really across the bay,” said Dr. Stephen Tettelbach, professor of ecology at Long Island University which runs Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Peconic. Bay scallop restoration program. “The more data we collect, it all corroborates what we’ve been saying from the start that higher water temperatures, along with this parasitic disease, in conjunction with scallop spawning, are responsible. “

As recently as 2018, Peconic Bay scallops looked set to bounce back in a decades-long effort to recover from a devastating streak of brown algae blooms in the 1980s. But at the start of the season scallops from November 2019, something was seriously wrong. Between shell spawning in late spring and the start of the season, most of the adult scallops in the berries were dead. And the 2020 season turned out to be a repeat of 2019.

But every year there was a silver lining – even though most of the adult scallops had died, they had managed to produce a plethora of juvenile scallops that seemed unaffected by what was killing the adults.

Peconic Bay scallops only live for two years and it is only legal to harvest them in their second year of life.

“The adults are the ones who die and there are a lot of juveniles. The most obvious difference between these two age classes is that adults spawn, ”said Dr Tettelbach.

He and other scientists believe that because spawning is a very stressful time in the life of an adult scallop, the high water temperatures at the time of spawning, combined with parasitic infection, made it difficult for the scallops to survive. spawning stress seashells.

“We believe the mortality occurs soon after spawning, or maybe even coincides with it,” Dr Tettelbach said. “We haven’t downloaded all of our data from our loggers, but that’s what we believe. “

With Suffolk County research funding through Cornell Cooperative Extension, as well as help from the lab of Stony Brook pathologist Dr Bassem Allam, scallop researchers are now working to replicate selectively strains of Peconic Bay scallops that have been shown to be resistant to higher temperatures and parasitic infections.

“Next year will be a big expansion on this work,” said Dr. Tettelbach. “We hope to develop a line of scallops that we can use as broodstock for our restoration work in the future…. This has been done successfully with oysters and clams, breeding for disease resistance. “

Peconic Bay scallops are a particularly fragile species, in part because of their short lifespan. Dr Tettelbach said he heard it could be due to a shorter section of a chromosome than other scallop species.

“There are very similar species, in the same genus, in Chile and Peru that live up to ten years. It’s a big difference with our guys here, ”he said. “People have suggested hybridizing our scallops with North Carolina or Florida scallops, but I’m not there yet. There is so much that can and has gone wrong when you transplant wildlife to new areas. “

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