Part of Farm Pond open for shellfishing

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Oak Bluffs has opened the northern section of Farm Pond for shellfishing. — Jamie Kageleiry

A portion of Farm Pond in Oak Bluffs opened to shellfishing last week.

“First time in 31 years,” Oak Bluffs shellfish constable Dave Grunden said. The pond’s decades-long closure was due to poor water quality from excessive nitrogen loading.

Only the northern third of the pond is open for shellfishing — the southern two-thirds of the pond is still closed off. A few years ago, the town began directing storm water into an infiltrator system in Viera Park, Grunden said, and has also maintained the culvert opening into the ocean. As a result, the pond’s water quality improved.

Farm Pond is a 42-acre coastal salt pond that includes eight acres of salt marsh. In a 2010 Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) study, the pond was determined to have “moderate nitrogen enrichment and impairment of both eelgrass and infaunal habitats.”

The pond went from “prohibitive status” to meeting the National Shellfish Sanitation Program guidelines for “conditionally approved” status by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

The southern parts of the pond are still closed because of fairly dense eelgrass, which the town does not want to disturb.

The pond is open until the end of April, and will remain closed until November. While the northern part of the pond is open, Grunden said the bottom is soft, which can cause mobility issues. He cautioned people to take note of signage of where they can and cannot fish.

Looking ahead, Grunden said the town hopes to increase tidal flushing to improve the water quality, but still needs to go through the permitting process. “This would allow us to reintroduce bay scallops in the area, and some recreational take of scallops if they take in the eelgrass beds,” Grunden said. “We could introduce seed.”