The Suffolk County Legislature closed a public hearing on the county’s Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program on Feb. 2, with some legislators expressing weariness and irritation at residents pressing for tighter restrictions on the program, and sympathy for oyster farmers who described their nascent industry as under attack from recreational users of Peconic and Gardiner’s Bays.
Under the program, 10-acre parcels are leased for private commercial shellfish farming. A review every 10 years, to determine if and how the program, known as SCALP, should be changed in future, includes an overall evaluation of it to date. The Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning has conducted the initial review over the last two years, with input from the program’s 10-Year Review Advisory Group, government officials, experts, bay user groups, and the public.
The review is now nearing conclusion, with a possible vote on an amended charter authorizing the program, and guidelines for its implementation, at the county legislature’s March 2 meeting.
As filter-feeding bivalves, oysters help remove excess nitrogen from the water, and proponents of shellfish cultivation argue that the practice is important in mitigating conditions that promote … [more]