Lagoon Pond scallop season shortened

Tisbury tries to protect ‘large seed.’

Bay scallop season will be short in Lagoon Pond. — Courtesy Tisbury Natural Resources

Tisbury and Oak Bluffs set their bay scallop opening dates, which limit the amount of scallops that can be taken from a pond the two towns share.

While Tisbury significantly shortened the season, to two days, Oak Bluffs had earlier reduced the amount of scallops that could be taken during the season.

Tisbury’s shellfish constable Danielle Ewart told the Tisbury select board that Lagoon Pond was flush with “large seed,” and in an effort to safeguard that, there would be a small scalloping window. The dates picked for Lagoon Pond were Nov. 12 and Nov. 13, from 7 am to 4 pm, for family/recreational scalloping. Dragging will be prohibited, Ewart said. Scallopers may only dip-net, which can include diving. There will be no commercial scallop season in Lagoon Pond, Ewert noted. Outside the ponds and in the harbor, scalloping will be Nov. 5 for family/recreational, and Nov. 7 for commercial. No end date was set for either season. For Lake Tashmoo, where no dragging will be allowed, Nov. 19 begins recreation/family scalloping, and Nov. 21 begins commercial scalloping. 

Select board chair Roy Cutrer said he heard from “several people” who want to know why there’s such a short window in Lagoon Pond. 

“The people I’ve talked to said those two days would be subject to weather, to tide, and there’s a possibility that they won’t be able to enjoy those two days of scalloping,” Cutrer said. “Is there a possibility of opening this up for another two days or another weekend for the recreational/family permits?”

Ewart said it was possible, but she wanted to wait and see. Ewart stressed there was “a lot of large seed out there.”

Emma Green-Beach of the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group later told The Times her organization seeded late, and appears to have created a population of large seed that can appear very similar to a mature scallop. One key difference is that large seed haven’t had the opportunity to spawn and make more scallops. 

At the Tisbury meeting, shellfisherman Jason Robinson criticized the short Lagoon Pond window. “I’m just wondering why only two days?” he asked. 

Robinson noted last year was only two days too, with dragging. “I went out and got my limit both days,” he said. He added it wouldn’t hurt the seed to extend the season in Lagoon Pond. He suggested “a week or two,” and suggested the shellfish department could monitor the catches to ensure seed isn’t harvested. He said he’s “out there every day,” and he’s seen “a good amount of adults.”

“We pay a lot of money for a permit in this town,” he said, but the permit is only good for quahog fishing right now. 

Ewart said loss of eelgrass and other factors have impacted the pond, and the scallops that used to be more abundant. “I want to try to re-establish that population again so we have something for the future,” she said. 

“There’s a lot of large juveniles out there, and I think we need to start protecting what we have,” she added. To differentiate juvenile scallops from adults, Ewart suggested looking for a “well-defined growth ring” to denote adulthood. 

After more debate, the select board voted 2-0 to approve the dates, with a proviso that Ewart would come up with new dates for Lagoon Pond if bad weather comes on the two days set for scalloping there. 

At the Oct. 25 select board meeting, Oak Bluffs town administrator Deborah Potter reported about some vandalism to shellfish department property in that town. “You may or may not be aware, there was some vandalism that was done to two of our motors and one of our trucks for the shellfish. I just found that very disappointing, because I just think that the people of the town of Oak Bluffs … It’s just not consistent with the positive energy that we have in this town,” she said. “And so it’s very, very disappointing — especially a very disappointing way to welcome our new shellfish constable. But that is being dealt in a variety of different ways.”

Potter was referring to the hiring of shellfish constable Donavan McElligatt. She told the board she would keep them apprised of the situation.

She was asked if it’s under investigation, and replied, “Yes, but I’m not going to comment any further because I don’t want to [interfere with] what they’re doing.”

Oak Bluffs Police Chief Jonathan Searle confirmed there is an active investigation, and therefore declined comment.

All of this comes as the select board recently imposed stricter regulations on the scallop season in Oak Bluffs at Lagoon Pond and Sengekontacket Pond. Oak Bluffs opens its recreational season Nov. 12, with a limit of one bushel until Dec. 21. After Jan. 1, the limit will be a half-bushel. For commercial shellfishermen, the season opens Monday, Nov. 14, with a limit of three bushels until Dec. 31. After Jan. 1, the limit will be two bushels. Those limits got some significant pushback at a meeting Oct. 11. The board ultimately kept the regulations, and said they would have McElligatt re-evaluate after the season.

McElligatt told The Times Thursday afternoon that the investigation is looking into alleged vandalism of two department boats and one patrol truck. He said there were signs of tampering with the boats’ gas tanks, in addition to indications that someone may have “attempted to pry open” the truck doors while parked near Major’s Cove. 

McElligatt said the department has received help from local mechanics regarding the boats, with one boat now up and running. He said the department is “taking precautions” to avoid more potential vandalism while the investigation continues. 

McElligatt said he has “suspicions” on who may have participated in the tampering, but declined further comment so as not to interfere with the ongoing investigation.