The is considering a proposal for increased regulation of the local clamming industry, as part of the recommendations from the Great South Bay Hard Clam Restoration Working Group.
The proposal, which would require clammers to provide monthly summary reports of their harvest activities to the Town of Babylon Department of Environmental Control, was presented at last week's Town of Babylon board meeting.
The proposal also sets limits on recreational clamming of 100 clams or less per day. The proposal was tabled, according to Babylon Town spokesperson Tim Ruggeri, "to give the Town Board more time to consider the public comments, and to give some more time to anyone who might want to submit additional comments."
The Working Group - a joint initiative between Suffolk County, the towns of Babylon, Islip, and Brookhaven and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation - was tasked with addressing "active restoration, harvest management and enforcement issues."
Bayman Tom Kuhner felt commerical clammers already furnish enough reporting.
"I have to send a report to the state every day I go out," the Babylon resident said. "It's just another thing for us to do, and it's not necessary. There's enough regulation, and there are enough clams here for everyone. The worst part of the proposal is limiting recreational clammers to 100 clams - that's nothing."
Nate Woiwode, policy advisor for the Nature Conservancy in Cold Spring Harbor, said the reporting is necessary to keep populations sustainable: "There's a need to keep track of revenue, in this case the number of clams recruiting and surviving every year; and spending, which, in this case, is the number of clams harvested every year."
Balancing the needs of the environment while trying to preserve traditions of shellfish harvesting, Woiwode said, requires the Town to carefully keep track of ongoing harvests.
Bill Zeller, who owns wholesaler Captree Clam Company in West Babylon, spoke at the town meeting in support of the recommendations.
"There could be a friendlier relationship between the baymen and the Town of Babylon," Zeller said. "But I was comfortable recommending the proposal be adopted by the town. I have the numbers, as the only buyer here, and I'd be happy to furnish them to the Town."
Nancy Solomon, director of the non-profit Long Island Traditions, which works to help preserve the traditions of commercial and recreational fishermen, said she's seen the consequences of the industry's decline in her years of work with area baymen as a cultural ethnographer. She opposes the proposal.
"The Work Group was charged with examining how to increase the population of clams in Great South Bay, a task they failed to address in their final report. Instead they believe that increased reporting requirements by local baymen will provide more information. However, there's a great deal of information available to make responsible decisions regarding clam harvesting. Increasing the reporting burden will only further decimate an already endangered occupation."
The committee - which spent 2011 interviewing stakeholders, doing research and holding public input meetings - is now presenting its findings to the three Townships on the Great South Bay. Its final report recommended that specific harvest data would be helpful for resource management.
A moratorium on new clamming licenses in the Town of Babylon that was adopted in 2010 expired December 11, 2011 as part of the task force's interim recommendations.
New licenses will be capped at 27 per year, and the Town can amend this number annually to reflect changing conditions.
The final report from the Great South Bay Hard Clam Restoration Working Group showed that although the clam population has suffered across the Bay, Babylon's waters were relatively less decimated than other areas, and that current harvest levels are close to what's estimated to be a sustainable yield.