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Climate Change May Be Culprit In Long Island Scallop Die-Off

Experts say the massive scallop die-off in the Peconic Bay on Long Island may be a result of climate change. They haven’t confirmed the cause yet, but suspect warmer waters may be to blame. 

Kim Tetrault, community aquaculture specialist at the Cornell Cooperative Extension, has worked with shellfish and marine life on Long Island for decades. Tetrault says this die-off is a sign.

“It’s a bit of a canary in the coal mine, and here we go, the canary died in the coal mine, and there was a warning there that something was not the same.”

There isn’t much evidence of traditional causes of the die-off, like predators and harmful algal blooms. Tetrault says this year’s die-off was likely caused by a climate event that changed the water temperature, which could stress the scallops during their mating seasons.

John Dunne, director of the East Hampton Shellfish Hatchery, says there needs to be research on how the changes are affecting oxygen rates in the water.

“I think it would be really important to drop some water quality monitoring probes, and they should really go down to the bottom because if we have dissolved oxygen issues, we need to know what the dissolved oxygen is on the bottom where the scallops are.”

Dunne says the other solution is to find and examine scallops that are in the process of dying off.

Legislator Bridget Fleming represents communities on Long Island’s South Fork. 

“We do have immediate concerns about what’s happened here because of the millions of dollars that are likely to be lost by both the baymen, the fishing industry, and by the restaurant industry, upon which we, on the East End, depend for our economic vitality.” 

Experts say this year’s scallop crisis is the most severe die-off in decades. 

The Department of Environmental Conservation says it’s investigating. 

Jay Shah is a former Long Island bureau chief at WSHU.
Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.
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