Traditionally, the bay scallop (Argopecten irradians) has played an important role in the culture and economy of the East Coast. Scallops were particularly abundant from Southern Massachusetts to Great South Bay on Long Island, New York. A decade ago, dockside value for scallop harvests was $1.8 million dollars in Long Island.
In recent years, however, the availability of bay scallops has greatly diminished. By the mid 1980s, the scallop fishery in states like Rhode Island had ceased all-together. Many reasons have been given for this decline, including poor water quality (the result of low oxygen or elevated nutrients), habitat degradation (such as eelgrass depletion), predation (species such as crabs and starfish) and harmful algal blooms (such as brown tides).
NHEERL’s Atlantic Ecology Division is actively
researching the scallop-habitat relationship. The aim of this study is to develop methods for predicting biological effects of habitat alteration and determining how populations of fish, shellfish, and aquatic dependent wildlife respond to habitat alteration.
Put simply, we’re trying to figure out how we can use our knowledge of scallop-habitat relationships to guide habitat-based criteria development and inform and evaluate bay scallop restoration efforts.
Field surveys, in conjunction with scallop restoration projects, are currently underway in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Nantucket, Massachusetts and Peconic Bay, New York. With the help of our newly acquired autonomous underwater vehicle, the Remus 100, we will be
mapping the habitats in the Massachusetts
ponds where our field surveys are being conducted.
Marty Chintala is a scientist within EPA’s Atlantic Ecology Division at the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory.