Friday, May 25, 2012

Shellfish in the Eelgrass

Bay Scallop in a natural eelgrass meadow off Shelter Island, NY

 Yesterday we had hoped to get out to several of our Long Island Sound test planting locations to check on their status, but unfortunately the heavy fog prevented us from getting that far.  Lucky for us, the fog wasn't really  hanging around the Peconic Estuary as much so we decided to cut our losses and drop in on a few sites that I had been meaning to dive for a while.  These sites included two recently discovered natural meadows that we located using aerial photos this past winter as well as two potential test planting sites.  While the test planting sites didn't look promising, the natural meadows were beautiful and, as usual, we observed some pretty interesting things. 

Four large hard clams growing within a same natural eelgrass meadow off Shelter Island, NY
One observation had to do with crab damage/bioturbation of isolated shoots, but I won't get into that in this post.  The other observation related to the large number of shellfish found in these meadows.  The first photo shows one of the dozens of scallops observed.  This photo was taken near the deepwater edge of the grass where it was more patchy and the scallops really stood out.  I did see losts of smaller bugs, but these were within the dense grass and much harder to find and phtotograph.  The photo immediately above shows some of the  hard clams also observed in the same meadow.  I don't think I have ever seen so many in one location and I know that I have never seen four clustered together like that.

Two hard clams growing within 8" of the group of four shown above
In addition to those four, I found a group of two only 8" away from the first group. The only other location where we have seen a similar density of hard clams was in the meadow on the east side of the ferry terminal at North Haven.  The grass there has since been lost and the clams are gone now but it was another clam hot spot. It just goes to show that as we lose or eelgrass we also lose the fisheries associated with it.  Let's hope this meadow off Shelter Island persists; at this point it looks great.


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