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Trustees Hope to Boost Soft Clam Harvest

Thu, 10/28/2021 - 10:19

The East Hampton Town Trustees, in response to requests from baymen, voted on Monday to authorize a special season for harvesting soft clams by the method known as powering, or churning.

Starting on Nov. 8 and through Oct. 28, 2022, holders of a commercial shellfish license may, by special permit, harvest soft clams by directing an outboard motor's propeller toward the bottom, exposing the clams, in all trustee waters certified for shellfishing. The activity will be permitted on weekdays during daylight hours.

Applications for a permit can be made through Friday, Nov. 5, at the trustees' office in the Lamb Building on Bluff Road in Amagansett. Applicants must produce a valid commercial shellfish license and a New York State driver's license or other state identification, and execute a sworn statement that they have not been convicted of a violation of the town code pertaining to shellfish in the last year. 

There are exceptions to the allowance of powering, said John Aldred, who read the resolution to his colleagues. Powering may not be conducted within 100 feet of a road end or other vehicle access, trail, or kayak rack between May 15 and Sept. 15, or at any time in an area containing eelgrass or widgeon grass, in oyster gardening locations, or in areas seeded by the town shellfish hatchery with oysters within the past three years, with hard clams within the past five years, and with bay scallops within the past year, as delineated on the hatchery's seeding maps. 

Permit holders are limited to two bushels per day, and all soft clams taken must be placed in wire or plastic bushel baskets. They must also keep a record of the quantity harvested by location and date, and provide quarterly reports of those records. 

The trustees voted last summer to allow powering for soft clams in Three Mile Harbor, Accabonac Harbor, Hog Creek, and Napeague Harbor. 

Powering is conducive to the sustained health of the population, Danny Lester, a bayman, told the trustees in July, likening it to tilling soil on land. "The more you turn the bottom over, the more spat's going to go in," he said of shellfish larvae that has attached to a surface. "It's like gardening: You take your garden, you roll it over every year, your flowers grow. Same thing with the soft clams. If the bottom's rock hard, the spat can't get in."

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