A Frank M. Flower & Sons shellfishing vessel works in...

A Frank M. Flower & Sons shellfishing vessel works in the waters of Oyster Bay in 2020. Credit: Barry Sloan

Oyster Bay officials are planning more litigation against a shellfishing company that is transferring clams into Oyster Bay Harbor before harvesting them — along with the state agency that granted a recent permit for that operation.

Town board members voted 5-0 on Tuesday to sue the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Frank M. Flower & Sons Inc., which has a 30-year lease with the town for underwater land use that expires next year.

The board didn't discuss the issue in public before voting on a resolution to have an outside law firm handle litigation against those parties. Town spokesman Brian Nevin declined to comment Wednesday. 

The DEC doesn't allow shellfish to be harvested for food in Mill Neck Creek due to bacteria levels there.

But the permit the agency granted Frank M. Flower & Sons on March 31 allows the company to use mechanical harvesting vessels to transplant clams from the creek to other designated areas. Then the clams can be harvested after a natural cleaning process in the water.

Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said in a statement last week the new permit threatens to reverse progress that's been made protecting the harbor and marine life.

Local environmental organization Friends of the Bay and independent shellfishermen also have criticized the mechanical harvesting practices of Frank M. Flower & Sons.

But the company said in a statement Wednesday its practices contribute to the health of the estuary and the town was making decisions based on politics rather than science.

"The decision by the Town to once again challenge well-established, science-based decision making by the Department of Environmental Conservation is environmentally and fiscally irresponsible and ultimately will harm the taxpayers of Oyster Bay," the statement said.

Last year, the town unsuccessfully sued the same parties to stop the clam transplantations. 

In that case, a judge declined to issue an injunction, finding the town hadn't shown it would be “irreparably harmed." In January, a judge dismissed the case as moot because by that time, the operation permit already had expired. 

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