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bay scallops
Some of the bay scallops recently donated to a Connecticut town for restoration and enhancement efforts.Credit: Joseph Choromanski, NEFSC/NOAA.
scallops with calipers

Bay scallops with striped shells provide a visible marker for stock identification. The calipers measure shell size, in this case a scallop that is 40 mm (about 1.5 inches). Credit: Joseph Choromanski, NEFSC/NOAA

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December 2, 2014
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

From Coastal Ponds to the Classroom: Donated Bay Scallops Have An Impact

Donating bay scallops to local shellfish wardens, industry, conservation and shellfish groups, and schools is nothing new for Sheila Stiles and her colleagues in the shellfish genetics research program at the Milford Laboratory. The researchers have been doing it for years, supplying animals of different sizes and quantities, even with special genetic shell markings like stripes, depending on the project and need. 

In the past few weeks, they have donated more than 30,000 scallops raised this year at the laboratory in Milford, Connecticut, for use in stock enhancement, restoration and aquaculture activities at sites in Rhode Island, New York and Connecticut.  On October 10, 5,000 juvenile and adult scallops were distributed at a site in Stonington, Conn. in exchange for broodstock for the lab’s culturing activities. 

“We collaborate and cooperate with many different groups as part of our continuing efforts to develop and improve domestic seafood,” said Stiles, a geneticist at the Milford Lab, part of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). “This is a critical part of our technology transfer and outreach work.”

One of the recent recipients of 10,000 bay scallops was The Nature Conservancy (TNC) on Block Island.  Chris Littlefield, director of TNC’s Block Island Program and Coastal and Marine Projects and a longtime island resident, wanted scallops to increase recruitment and genetic diversity in the island’s Great Salt Pond system. He learned of the opportunity to obtain scallops from the Milford Lab from Jim Turek of NOAA’s Restoration Center, located at the NEFSC's Narragansett Laboratory. Last year, TNC received 15,000 scallops that were open planted; they subsequently dispersed widely.

“This year we received 10,000 scallops from Milford Lab. It is early in the season for direct seeding as crab predators are still active, so we plan to set up a spawner sanctuary, a Club Med of sorts for bay scallops,” said Littlefield.  “They are in containers in the field protected from green crabs and other predators, and we are hopeful they will overwinter well.”

The restoration effort is the second in Great Salt Pond in the last decade. In 2007 a three-year program with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Block Island Maritime Institute helped boost the bay scallop population in the pond, but the numbers were still very low. “Once we heard about the opportunity to get hatchery scallops, we jumped at the chance to continue to restore the population and get the baseline numbers up. Thanks to these donations from Milford, the population now is moving in the right direction.”

Littlefield plans to work with Stiles on genetics research in the coming months to keep the project on track. He has been bay scalloping since he was small, and says his son in his twenties and his friends go now, as do people of all ages.  He looks forward to seeing recreational harvesting in the pond increase, perhaps allowing for a commercial harvest sometime in the future as now occur on Martha’s Vineyard and on Nantucket.

Other recipients of donated bay scallops don’t need very many animals, but the donation still has a big impact. Valerie Cournoyer, a science teacher at Amity High School in Woodbridge, Conn, brought 20 students to the Milford Lab’s Open House on October 17. The students needed about 60 scallops of different sizes, algae to feed them, and seawater to begin their classroom studies. During the school year the scallops will be used for two different projects: a planned experiment by a single student involving 20 larger scallops to study the effects of pH on the growth of the scallops, and other studies by the marine biology class, including one on substrate preference, using the 40 smaller scallops.

“This is a wonderful program and a great opportunity for students to visit the Milford Laboratory to learn about the research conducted here, and to do research on scallops in the classroom, using the research done by Dr. Stiles and others as a guide,” said Cournoyer.

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