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Babylon enacts limits on commercial clamming

Babylon has become the first town on the Great South Bay to pass new rules that limit commercial clamming - and Islip could soon follow.

Opposed by some baymen as unfair and unnecessary, the measures are intended to protect what few hard clams remain in the bay during efforts to restore the fishery.

Last week the Babylon Town board adopted a resolution that puts a 2,000-clam-a-day cap on baymen in town waters. The town also restricted local commercial clamming permits to residents of Babylon, Islip and Brookhaven who have held state licenses for at least two of the past three years and also have a 2010 license.

The Town of Islip is holding a public hearing Tuesday on a similar measure. Brookhaven is also expected to weigh in, but has not yet scheduled a vote.

The new clam rules were suggested by a group of officials, shellfish industry representatives and environmental advocates who estimated 450 diggers would be eligible for permits if all three towns passed such laws. Suffolk County convened the group to develop management and protection plans for hard clams in the Great South Bay.

The once-abundant clam population here crashed in the 1980s due to overharvesting and water pollution. Proponents say the new rules will guard against a rush to harvest if the clams come back.

But others say the new rules unfairly discriminate against baymen who turned to other pursuits during the decline.

"By limiting the number of clam licenses you're saying to the guy who sat this out hoping for better times that they now can't apply for a permit," said Nancy Solomon of Long Island Traditions, which documents local maritime culture. "We want to prevent further decimation of an industry that has already suffered enough."

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