A Way of Life
Long Island's shellfish have been prized for centuries.
In the early 1900's as many as 100,000 barrels per year of Great South Bay oysters were being shipped around the globe, making Bluepoints one of the most famous oyster names in the world. Oyster shells paved the streets of Islip until around 1915.
In the 1970's over 50% of the hard clams eaten in the US came from Great South Bay, and there were over 6,500 licensed commercial shellfishermen living in Babylon, Islip and Brookhaven. On the north shore, Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor and Huntington/Northport Harbor were well known for their clams and oysters. Places like Mt Sinai Harbor were prized for their steamers, and up until the mid-1980's The Peconic Bay Scallop was the mainstay of the winter economy on the east end of Long Island.
For a long time on Long Island, if you weren't a shellfishermen, someone in your family or a close friend or neighbor was.
Shellfish Are Not Surviving
Harmful algal blooms fueled by nitrogen pollution can make it difficult for shellfish to grow, reproduce, and even survive. Some algae produce toxins that accumulate in filter feeding shellfish which intern can poison people or wildlife that eat them. The problem is so bad that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) increasingly monitors and seasonally closes shellfish beds due to algae blooms. Before going shellfishing, it's imperative to check that areas are safe
We're Running Out of East
Long Island's water quality problems are directly tied to population density and land use. As the population has grown and spread further east, the water quality problems have also spread east. In the past decade, Eastern Moriches Bay and Western Shinnecock Bay, once among the cleanest of Long Island bays, have become hotspots for nitrogen-fueled red and brown tides.