The State Department of Environmental Conservation has postponed the start of the bay scallop harvest on most of the East End by as much as two weeks while it conducts water quality sampling in common harvest areas following Hurricane Sandy.
Great Peconic Bay, Little Peconic Bay and Flanders Bay will be open for scallop harvesting as of November 7.
Last Friday, November 2, the DEC ordered all shellfish harvesting in Southampton Town and East Hampton Town waters to halt until November 13, including the start of the lucrative bay scallop harvest.
The state said that the closures were made necessary because elevated tides and storm surges during the hurricane caused sewage treatment facilities and residential septic systems to flood, which could have elevated bacteria levels in tidal waters. Consuming shellfish with elevated bacteria levels in their meat could pose a threat to human health.
On Tuesday, however, the state said that sampling had revealed that bacteria levels were not unsafe in the Peconics and Flanders Bay. Sampling had not been conducted in the enclosed creeks and harbors or in Gardiners Bay, so those areas remain closed until further notice.
The closure is effective for all waters in East Hampton Town, including Northwest Harbor, Three Mile Harbor, Lake Montauk and Napeague Harbor, and all waters in Southampton Town, including Sag Harbor Cove, Shinnecock Bay and all coves and tributaries off Great Peconic and Little Peconic.
State jurisdiction waters and Southampton Town waters were scheduled to open for the harvest of the highly sought after bay scallops on Monday. East Hampton Town waters are not opened to harvesting until two weeks after the state waters open.
The bay scallop harvest for this winter was already dealt a painful blow this fall as surveys showed that as many as 90 percent of the bay scallops born in the last year may have died over the summer, possibly due to a large red algae bloom that spread from Shinnecock Bay east through the Peconics and into Gardiners Bay.