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Apr 3, 2018 5:42 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Trustees Allow Oyster Dredging In April

Ed Warner comes off the water after reaching his limit on oysters. GREG WEHNER
Apr 4, 2018 8:50 AM

In an effort to aid the oyster population by breaking up clusters of shellfish on the bottom of Mecox Bay, the Southampton Town Trustees will allow baymen to use dredges during the month of April, a practice typically not permitted.

In a special meeting held on March 28, the Southampton Town Trustees voted to allow commercial fishermen harvesting oysters in Mecox Bay to each use up to two 30-inch dredges to be pulled by a boat or lifted by hand.

A dredge is a device that typically has a metal mouth and a collection net, and is dragged across the sea floor to collect oysters. The Town Trustees normally prohibit the use of dredge devices when removing oysters during the season, which runs from December 1 through April 31, because it can harm the oysters in the colder months, when the shellfish lie dormant.

Town Trustee President Ed Warner, who is a bayman by profession, said the oysters in Mecox sit very densely on top of one another, sometimes with up to a dozen oysters in one cluster. If a dredge were to be pulled across the bottom of the bay early in the season, in colder months, it can damage the shells and hinder the shellfish’s ability to filter feed.

Instead, it is better to pull the dredge across the bottom at the end of the season, he said: “Doing it at the end is like a farmer prepping his field before setting the crop.”

Mecox Bay has very little movement of current, Mr. Warner said, so the oysters cluster very closely together and grow long rather than round.

By allowing dredging through April 30, the Trustees hope the juvenile oyster spat, which are resting on top of the mature and more marketable oysters, will get cleaner shells to grow on, allowing them to form into round oysters, he said. The round oysters, according to Mr. Warner, are more marketable to restaurants for a raw bar, or for dishes like oysters Rockefeller, while the long oysters are better for shucking and putting into an oyster stew.

Town Trustees Bill Pell and Bruce Stafford both agreed that the measure is needed.

As a bayman, Mr. Warner has already been out on the water and maxed out on his limit of oysters each day, but he noted the season has been slow because of the somewhat mild winter.

This is not the first time the Trustees have opened up a period for baymen to dredge for oysters, something they say is needed in a bay that has been stricken with blue-green algae blooms pouring in from nearby water bodies, like Mill Pond.

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Is this sound science? Just from a short bit of research it seems to do more harm then good. Just wondering. A citation or article on this would help.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Apr 4, 18 12:31 PM
Sounds like a lot of BS. You can get 10 marine scientists and they all have their own opinions.
Looks like a bonus for baymen. They opened dredging for scallops in our back bays a few times because the mature scallops would die anyway. What damage was done to the grasses that the scallops need for protection. Get real...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Apr 4, 18 1:22 PM
I am real. Like you said, you can get 10 marine scientists. They might know something about something. I have nothing against baymen, they are hard working guys. The thing is, the bays belong to us all. Short term gain for a few baymen isn’t what I was asking about.is it good for the bay bottom? I wasn’t asking if it’s good for a few baymen. Last I looked oysters aren’t scallops.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Apr 4, 18 1:30 PM
ed warner, who harvests 90% of oysters in mecox bay, decides to allow dredging so he can make thousands of dollars. sounds perfectly above board to me!.
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Apr 5, 18 7:58 AM
Mecox oysters aren't on the top 10. Bay has to be opened to get quality products.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Apr 5, 18 10:47 AM