Sunday was opening day in East Hampton Town waters for scallop harvesting, and, while there were some to be found, the haul for those who braved the wind and rain was about what was expected — poor. Various experts had predicted a weak scallop season. As in recent years, few survived to harvestable size. For commercial license holders, things have been so dire that the United States Department of Commerce declared the 2019-20 season a fishery disaster, making them eligible for federal financial assistance.
Despite money also going to some research efforts, there remains little consensus on the causes of the scallops’ plunging numbers. During 2021, the Cornell Cooperative Extension Peconic Bay Scallop Restoration Program observed the best set of juvenile scallops since about 2004. Had enough of these survived, they would have filled the baymen’s dredges this month, but that was not to be. Jumping back into the water in the fall, the Cornell team found about 90 percent of the adult scallops dead or dying. It seems to have been the same way this year.
One can see evidence of these yearly die-offs on the East End bay beaches: There are lots of small scallop shells, but few to no large ones. Scallop season runs until the end of March. The question is if anyone will bother to look for them now that they are doing so poorly for the fourth year in a row.