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Smithtown town board vote expected on harbor clam seeding

The Town of Smithtown shells out a few clams every year so that its residents can catch a few clams.

The town plans this year to buy $15,000 worth of hard clam seeds to replenish shellfish beds in Stony Brook Harbor, town environmental protection director Russell K. Barnett said Monday.

The town board is expected to vote Tuesday on approving the purchase from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

Seeding the harbor helps to maintain one of Long Island's oldest industries and provide a cherished hobby for many area residents. Though shellfish once thrived in Long Island's bays, they have fallen victim in recent decades to high bacteria levels and stormwater runoff.

Smithtown's seeding program, which began in 1985, is progressing "fairly well," said Barnett, adding that Stony Brook Harbor is "one of the cleanest embayments on Long Island. Water quality is very, very good."

The town purchases seeds for Mercenaria mercenaria notata, a subspecies of quahog whose shells have unique markings that allow officials to track their development, Barnett said.

Clam seeds that are about the size of sesame seeds are placed in floating cages in the harbor, which are supervised by students who participate in marine programs run by BOCES and other educational services, Barnett said. When the clams grow to about the size of a nickel or a quarter, they are taken out of the cages and placed in areas of the harbor that are certified for shellfishing, he said.

The town also buys larger seed clams to boost the harbor's shellfish stock, he said.

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