Pond Stock Rising

The late Foster Silva, longtime superintendent for The Trustees of Reservations on Chappaquiddick who loved to tell perfect strangers that he had received his degree from Katama University, had an opinion on the subject of bay scallops. Cape Pogue scallops, he said, were the sweetest. No arguments.

Edgartown held the top spot in the state for many years in scallop landings, but this year the tables are a bit turned — it’s a good year for scallops in Chilmark, Aquinnah, Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, but Edgartown is lagging, its ponds full of seed, which portends for a good season next year. With their two-year life cycle and notoriously fickle nature, bay scallops are extremely sensitive to changes in the environment. Pollution has wiped out eelgrass beds in saltwater ponds from Long Island to Cape Cod, and with them went a once-thriving bay scallop industry.

But happily, not on the two Islands. There are encouraging signs of new health in the Vineyard scallop fishery, and much of the credit goes to the seeding programs of the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group.

This is an example of aquaculture at its best — boosting wild populations of shellfish by adding stock that has been raised in hatcheries, not at some remote location but just down the shore, using clean salt water from a natural pond. To that end, it is imperative to vigorously protect Vineyard ponds by limiting or prohibiting new development around them, upgrading old or failed septic systems and educating new homeowners about the disastrous effects of lawn and garden fertilizers on the ponds.

If we can do that we will give the greatest gift to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, ensuring that they will be able to harvest bay scallops, quahaugs and oysters for their dinner, or buy them from the fish market thanks to some local fisherman who has gone out on the pond to earn a day’s pay.

As for where the sweetest scallops grow — it would be nice to keep having that argument for generations to come.

But the best money is still on Cape Pogue.