Southampton Baymen Oppose Some Clam Sanctuary Locations


In the same week that the Southampton Town Trustees released 1.5 million baby clams into town waters as the foundations of spawning stock sanctuaries, the board also heard concerns from some local baymen about plans for four other sanctuaries in backwaters off the Peconics and Shinnecock estuaries.

The baymen, a half dozen of whom came to the Trustees meeting on Monday, said that some of the sites selected for the new sanctuaries would rob them and some recreational clammers of productive harvesting grounds if they were declared sanctuaries and put off limits to any harvesting.

“These places, especially Tom’s Pond, are important to the baymen in the winter,” bayman Sam Rispoli said, referring to a spot in Shinnecock Hills. “In Tom’s Pond, the topography is such that there is a shallow area around the rim but there is a deep area in middle … that is only accessible when the pond is frozen. If that were made into a sanctuary area, it would be removing from public access some valuable bay bottom.”

The tiny Tom’s Pond sits inside the gates of the National Golf Links of America and is connected to tidal waters only by a culvert pipe leading to Sebonac Inlet. The pond freezes quickly in winter and allows baymen who cross over dunes on the fringe of the private golf course property to access it and cut through the ice to scrape up clams from the bottom 15 feet below. Also, because of the tiny connection to tidal waters, Mr. Rispoli said it made little sense to use the pond as a spawner sanctuary, since it would be difficult for the offspring of the clams placed there to reach the broader estuary.

The Trustees and scientists from Stony Brook University and shellfish hatcheries have used the so-called spawner sanctuaries to drive the expansion of wild shellfish stocks. By depositing large numbers of mature shellfish in small areas barred from harvesting, the Trustees hope the natural spawning habits of the shellfish will create a stream of their offspring that will populate other bottomlands and help boost the naturally occurring stock.

The previous week, the Trustees released 1.5 million baby shellfish into spawning sanctuaries in Moriches, Shinnecock and the Peconics with the help of shellfish experts from Cornell Cooperative Extension in Southold, which raises baby shellfish for the Trustees.

The latest proposal would create new sanctuaries in Tom’s Pond, and in small corners of Cold Spring Pond, Scallop Pond, all tributaries of Peconic Bay, and in Far Pond at the northeastern corner of Shinnecock Bay.

But the sanctuaries, wherever they are created, mean that the area will be off limits to harvesting for a number of years. Mr. Rispoli, president of the Southampton Town Baymen’s Association, said that the sanctuaries should be created in areas that are already off-limits to baymen because of water quality controls by state harvesters.

“The town should be looking at creating sanctuaries in uncertified waters,” he said. “It won’t take away any harvestable bottom from the public or the baymen and … would have the additional deterrent from poaching on the sanctuaries, because harvesting in uncertified areas is a felony.”

The Trustees left the public comment period open on the proposals and said they would sit down with the baymen to discuss the creation of new sanctuaries prior to their next board meeting on December 15.

Trustees Buy Flanders Beach

The Trustees on Monday also approved the purchase of a small stretch of sandy beach in Flanders.

The stretch of beach, located on Fantasy Drive and at the end of Long Neck Boulevard, fronts on Flanders Bay and is a popular gathering spot despite having long been privately owned.

Suffolk County seized the land several years ago for the non-payment of taxes and will now sell it to the Trustees for $41,000.

The Suffolk County Legislature approved the sale in September.

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