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Islip sets caps on shellfish harvest permits

The Islip Town Board Tuesday approved new regulations capping the number of permits for shellfish harvesting in the Great South Bay in an attempt to increase their populations and rehabilitate the bay's water quality.

The changes, approved unanimously, cap at 50 annually the number of personal and commercial permits issued and also ease restrictions for commercial permit holders, individuals older than 60 and those who were unable to obtain a permit in the preceding year because of active military service. The changes also establish a 100-shellfish limit per day for personal permit holders. The board also voted to extend discounted permit rates to military members and increase the fine for a second violation to a flat fee of $1,000 rather than having fines range from $500 to $1,000.

Islip Supervisor Tom Croci said in a statement the changes allow for "the revitalization of this crucial natural resource."

The new regulations were hailed by environmental advocates.

Nate Woiwode, policy adviser for the Nature Conservancy of Long Island, said the changes were the result of a work group composed of stakeholders who proposed the changes to town officials.

Islip is the first of the three towns on the Great South Bay -- which also include Babylon and Brookhaven -- to implement the suggested changes, Woiwode said.

"We're hopeful that this will lead to some real change in the health of the bay," he said.

Tom Crosini, a marine engineer from Bay Shore, said the new regulations prevent personal permit holders like himself from fishing for nine months of the year.

"I've been doing it for 40 years -- I've been on a boat since I was 12," Crosini said. "It's been done for generations . . . To be limited . . . [makes it] impossible to harvest shellfish for recreation."

The board also voted to create a new zoning category in the town -- industrial transitional district -- which would allow some outside storage of vehicles such as box trucks, ambulettes and school buses in industrial areas.

Also, those seeking appeals of zoning decisions will have the matters handled administratively, rather than before the zoning board. The board also heard from several residents concerned about a proposal to relocate the Islip Arts Museum from its longtime home in Brookwood Hall in East Islip to a smaller space at Ockers House in Oakdale. Town officials say the move may be necessary because of a projected $26 million budget deficit.

"The Islip Art Museum at Brookwood Hall is a treasure -- to remove it would be a tragedy," said Kay Erwood, an Islip resident. "It would never retain the respect and support it has so well deserved at another venue."

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