As the Chilmark shellfish department wraps up its first summer, efforts at spearheading restoration projects have been successful. Selectman Warren Doty, chairman of the board and liaison to the department, reported a low mortality rate among planted scallops and a very high production rate.
“It has been a very successful season,” he said.
To date, 100,000 scallop seed have been set to grow in an upweller, purchased by the town this spring and located in Menemsha, as well as in spat bags and pearl nets.
Earlier this week, propagation agent Isaiah Scheffer received another shipment from the shellfish hatchery of 100,000 seed. By season’s end, the department hopes to have planted a total of up to half a million seed, Mr. Doty said. Mr. Scheffer has begun releasing seed grown to size into Menemsha and Quitsa ponds.
In addition to recultivating the scallop population, Mr. Scheffer has been working to make the ponds a more hospitable environment for shellfish. He has removed 12,000 green crabs and other crabs, predators to shellfish, from the ponds. “Predator control has a lot to do with what we’re seeing now,” he said.
At their annual town meeting in April, Chilmark residents voted to create a five-member shellfish steering committee and a full-time paid position of shellfish propagation officer. They also voted to appropriate $15,000 to fund the first year of a five-year shellfish restoration plan.
The town scallop season begins next month, but the department will not see the results of its efforts until next year. Scallops planted this year will not be ready to harvest until October 2008. This winter, the department will put growing efforts on hold and assess their work from the previous months.
“The winter time is for analyzing the program, building new equipment and probably sending Isaiah on a few trips to observe hatcheries in Maine and on Long Island,” Mr. Doty said.