The Block Island Times

Survey says: 263,046 quahogs

By Renée Meyer | Oct 22, 2013

The Great Salt Pond currently holds 263,046 quahogs, according to a report from Ryan Rezendes, an intern for the Shellfish Commission this past summer. His conclusions were delivered at the commission’s meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

The report outlines research conducted at sampling sites in two areas of the Great Salt Pond: Cormorant Cove and Andy’s Way. Using the quadrat method of measurement, clam samples were taken from several locations in order to estimate the overall population of clams in the pond.

Joining the commission at its meeting were Harbormaster Steve Land and Shellfish Warden Nancy Ziomek.

Land reported that the entire Great Salt Pond was now open for shellfishing and that all signage prohibiting shellfishing in various areas had been removed. Asked if anyone had started early — the pond “opened” at dawn on Oct. 15 — Land said that he had caught one person, a 12-year-old boy.

Ziomek was also asked about violations over the summer and she responded that the wardens primarily issued warnings. According to Ziomek’s written report for the summer, the wardens checked 1,737 clammers in the Great Salt Pond between May and September, and the “vast majority of these checks found people abiding by all the shell fishing ordinances.”

Her report noted that there had been 71 violations. The violations included: taking shellfish without a license; expired licenses; clamming without the license in their possession; collecting undersized shellfish; excessive harvest and wet storage. When asked by commission member Parker Black how the wardens dealt with the various violations, Ziomek said that in the case of excessive harvests and undersized shellfish, the clammers were told to dump their catches back in the water.

Land said that the crew of the Harbors Department pump-out boat often catches boaters improperly hanging shellfish from their boats in closed areas of the pond. They seize the shellfish on the spot and simply dump them overboard. Acting Chairman Hermann “Bo” Gempp said that many of those hanging shellfish off their boats brought the shellfish with them, often from out-of-state. He expressed concern about the introduction of diseases into the pond.

Land said that many boaters were not aware of the rules and thought that hanging was the proper method for storage. They often didn’t know what “wet storage” — the term used in town pamphlets — meant, Land said. The commissioners agreed that perhaps the signage around the pond could be modified to educate the public about the health hazards associated with hanging shellfish off boats.

Budget issues

The commission discussed plans and projects for 2014 as well as the 2014 budget. Black asked Land about progress in updating or replacing computer equipment in the Harbors office at Town Hall. Land said it remained a work in progress because the town’s information technology person had been very busy and hadn’t been able to provide the necessary updates. Gempp said that a new computer would not come out of the Harbors budget, but out of an administrative budget covering Town Hall.

In further discussing next year’s budget, Gempp expressed concern about rising cost of shellfish gauges, which the town provides for free when people get their shellfish licenses. He said that in 2012, the gauges cost $9,480, up from about $5,000 in 2011 and $4,000 in 2010. Gauges rose in price from $1.50 to $2.25 each. Gempp further stated that in 2012, $9,600 was spent “on transplant” — seeding parts of the pond with farm-raised clams. This was a balance that he felt was inappropriate.

In discussing how they could bring down this line item, it was suggested that the Harbors Department provide free gauges only to new licensees while those coming to renew their licenses might be charged a fee for a new gauge. Gempp suggested $5. The commission members then voted to recommend to the Town Council the institution of the $5 fee for gauges for those renewing licenses, or anyone who wishes to purchase one.

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