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Letter: Look at bay water quality

A seagull keeps a clammer company in the

A seagull keeps a clammer company in the waters off the Sayville Marina in the Great South Bay. (2011) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

I have been clamming on the Great South Bay for nearly 40 years. I have watched its decline, and it saddens me ["Silence of the clams," News, May 17].

Scientists blame the little guy for overharvesting in the 1970s, leading to the decline of the shellfish industry. The main culprit is poor water quality.

In Brookhaven Town there were three areas that always had large populations of clams: the mouth of the Forge River at Masury Point, Forge River near St. George Manor, and the area where the Patchogue River spilled into Patchogue Bay. These areas were polluted, and aside from the occasional illegal harvester, they became off limits. These areas were also the local incubators; the clam spat (babies) would flow from these large shellfish beds into the local bays and replenish the stock.

Soon after The Nature Conservancy took over the former Bluepoints Oyster Co. property, there were thousands of bushels dumped in a concentrated area. It has been about eight years, and where are the results? This is a no-harvest area; the shellfish should be flourishing.

The poor water quality may be a result of fertilizers used on lawns. It could be the chlorine in our drinking water, which eventually drifts into the bay. Does it kill the clam spat before it gets a chance to grow? The Brookhaven Town landfill is located on the Carmans River. Does polluted water from the landfill seep into the bay?

To blame the baymen for the decline of the shellfish industry is irresponsible. Poor water quality has caused the prolific propagation of the brown tide. Look how it has harmed the scallop industry. The only way for the bay to thrive again is to restore water quality.

Michael Hamilton, Yaphank

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