Commercial oystering to shift to Edgartown Great Pond

In this file photo, a fresh harvest of oysters from Katama Bay awaits delivery. The area has been closed to oyster harvesting after three people reported illness. — File photo by Michael Cummo

Following a unanimous vote of the shellfish committee, Edgartown selectmen voted at their regular meeting Tuesday night to halt commercial oystering in Sengekontacket at the end of the day on Friday, March 4, and to open Edgartown Great Pond to commercial harvest on Monday, March 7.

Commercial bay scalloping may also be re-opened in Cape Pogue on March 7, pending a survey by the shellfish committee.

Shellfish constable Mr. Bagnall said oysters may only be harvested between 7 am and 4 pm between Monday and Friday by way of raking and tonging. No dragging will be allowed. There will be a daily limit of two, level ten-gallon wash baskets per day, and the season will run through Friday, April 29.

As for bay scalloping, Mr. Bagnall said the shellfish department has been surveying the Great Pond to see if areas in Cape Pogue have some adults left for harvest. The survey should be completed this weekend, he said.

Bay Scallop season closes at the end of March.

In January, Mr. Bagnall told selectmen that unseasonably warm temperatures have allowed him to extend the bay scalloping season later than usual. Although scalloping has been poor, and few, if any, fishermen harvested their three-bushel limits on a daily basis, the market rate for scallops is high enough that the effort has been worth it, he said.

In November, Oak Bluffs selectmen voted to close the town’s side of Sengekontacket Pond to scalloping because of the abundance of seed, or juvenile scallops,  a decision that infuriated some commercial scallopers. Tisbury followed suit that month, and closed Lagoon Pond to all scalloping.

Commercial scallopers most often harvest bay scallops using drags to scrape the shellfish off the sea bottom. Seed scallops are culled from the catch. Repeated culling, particularly in very cold weather, can harm or kill the seed.