Sengekontacket Pond is open to shellfishing this summer

Much of Sengekontacket pond will open for shellfishing this summer. — Photo courtesy of Google maps

For the first time in five summers, most of Sengekontacket Pond will be open to shellfishing this year, except immediately after it rains. State officials had ordered the pond closed to shellfishing in previous summer months because of high levels of coliform bacteria.

Edgartown selectmen voted at their Monday meeting to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) that outlines how shellfish constables in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs will monitor and manage the popular salt pond this summer.

A large part of Major’s Cove, and another area from Dividend Point to Trapp’s Pond will remain closed at all times. The popular stretch of beach inside Beach Road on the back side of Joseph A. Silvia State Beach will be open except when rainfall exceeds allowable limits. Water samples over the past three years show that rainfall tends to wash pollution into the pond from roadways, ramps, and shorelines.

In July, if rainfall exceeds .2 inches, the shellfish constables will close the pond for five days.

From August through October, the open areas of the pond will be expanded slightly. During that period, the pond will remain open unless there is more than one inch of rain.

“Finally, some good news,” Edgartown shellfish warden Paul Bagnall said Monday.

In 2007, DMF ordered the popular salt pond closed to shellfishing during the summer months, because of sustained high levels of fecal coliform bacteria. The bacteria can accumulate in shellfish, making them unsafe to eat. Bay scallops are not affected by the pollution.

A University of New Hampshire study showed that 69 percent of the pollution comes from birds, including Canada geese and Northern cormorants which nest on Sarsen’s Island and along the marshy shorelines.

Mr. Bagnall said dredging of a channel between Big Bridge and Little Bridge over the past two winters has improved circulation and lowered bacterial levels.