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Researchers see mass Peconic Bay scallop die-off for the fourth consecutive year

J.D. Allen

Scientists from the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk County have confirmed a fourth consecutive mass die-off for the adult Peconic Bay scallops.

They found that the shellfish have failed to adapt to climate change, including high water temperatures, low dissolved oxygen and a new parasite.

Cornell Cooperative shellfish ecologist Dr. Stephen Tettelbach is working to restore the population. Until then, the outlook is bleak for those who rely on the harvest.

“All we can do is continue our work and try these new initiatives and hope that that is going to provide some short-term relief,” Tettelbach said. “I can't sugarcoat this for the baymen. It's a dire situation.”

Suffolk County baymen said they are relying on scientists like Dr. Tettelbach to bring back the harvest.

“Scalloping is what baymen love to do. It’s a passion, not a job. Baymen count on the scallop fishery to put food on the table,” said Mike Inzone, a bayman and aquafarmer from Ronkonkoma. “Without Cornell Cooperative Extension’s work to understand why scallops are dying — and without their work to restore them and give us hope — there will be nothing to sustain this passion."

Two projects run by Stony Brook and Cornell Cooperative are working on genetic-driven projects to bring the scallop population back.

The projects include breeding shellfish that survived the 2021 mass die-off and spawning later in the year for a better chance at surviving the winter.

Molly is a news fellow, working on the Long Story Short, Higher Ground, and other podcasts at WSHU.