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Senator Marcellino Advocates For Winter Shellfishing Areas

NYS Senator Carl Marcellino showed he is a strong advocate for New York’s economic health as he spoke at a New York State budget hearing on Feb. 8, in Albany. Senator Marcellino was questioning Joseph Martens, the DEC Commissioner designate regarding conditional openings of shellfish beds. 

Dave Relyea, spokesperson for Frank M. Flower & Sons, Inc. shellfishers said, “NYS Senator Carl Marcellino is going to bat for us. He is trying to get funds for the NYS DEC to restart their conditional shellfish program. That involves opening areas that are useable during the winter time. The reason they haven’t done so is they don’t have the resources to run the program. The senator is trying to get the funding to run those programs. The conditional programs cover all the towns on Long Island, including Oyster Bay, that are active in shellfishing. They include besides Oyster Bay: Huntington, Brookhaven, Riverhead,  Southold, South Hampton, Easthampton, Babylon and Islip. The only area not involved is North Hempstead since they have no active shellfishing at this time.”

The programs are a great boost to the shellfishing industry. “It gives the baymen and us an opportunity to get into areas we can’t use during the warmer months. It is very important to us, it is a major part of our revenue and it provides jobs for people,” said Mr. Relyea.

Cuts made by the Patterson administration reduced staffing at the DEC, impacting their ability to collect and analyze the data necessary to open the conditional beds.

In their Currents of the Bay, Friends of the Bay said, “Governor Cuomo has indicated he will not allow any further DEC staff reductions.  Friends of the Bay applauds this decision, and urges staffing levels of the DEC be returned to their former levels.  The staff reductions are negatively impacting our local economy and environment.”

Mr. Relyea said the FOB article is informative. He further explained, “What the senator wants to do is open the conditional areas – if not this year, at least to start the program next year for us.”

Stating His Case

 NYS Senator Carl Marcellino honed right in on the issues as he spoke in Albany, at a budget hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 8 questioning the new DEC Commissioner-designate Joseph Martens regarding the inability or unwillingness of the DEC to certify shellfish beds in Oyster Bay Harbor. 

He said the budget cuts in the EPF went from $300 million to $134 million. He said, “That is not progress, you’re going backwards. Your predecessor was fired because he had the guts to tell the truth about the proposed cuts to the department. Mr. Martens, do you have the guts to tell how the cuts will affect the DEC?”

DEC Commissioner-designate Martens said, “You will only get honest answers from me.”

Senator Marcellino said he has heard people say, “We do more with less but I think we do less with less.” He questioned the impact on the stewardship of land and law enforcement in hunting and fishing permits with a loss of staff. He said they were to have added 200 people to their staff.

Mr. Martens said there is currently less staffing. They have currently about 3,000 staffers.

The senator said, “I have serious concerns relative to the department’s ability to perform their functions for certifying waters for the shellfish industry on Long Island. I have one of the largest in the state. We can’t get the DEC to certify shellfish areas for farming. You won’t perform the needed tests and you are not allowing anyone to do it. We have labs here on Long Island that can. You only have to provide us with a biologist to confirm tests.   

“We have a major industry on Long Island that provides shellfish for the state; it employs several hundred people, but the department can’t accept the funds for testing from others?”

Mr. Martens said it sometimes does in the case of monitors for regulated facilities. It goes into a special revenue account. In terms of doing the testing he said, “There are legal issues involved in certifying waters.” He said there were cuts to the Marine Resources Division in 2008 in staffing for certifying waters. “It would take several years to re-certify if we started today. I’m very frustrated but the DEC has  1 million acres of certified water we are responsible for. We get evaluations from the federal government. We are just barely meeting the requirements for the one thousand acres on Long Island. It is so complicated an issue. I will tell you we will try to fix it but it would take most of several years,” he stated.

Mr. Marcellino said that the state initially committed to the program and now they have pulled out. The state had an industry it wanted to invest in and now has pulled  back.

Senator Marcellino said “There are alternative suggestions but we have been stonewalled and given evasions. It is not being handled well by the department. The shellfish company performs a service to residents and the surrounding states.” It is a for profit business that employs about 100 people; and provides 95 percent of the shellfish sold in the state.

Currently, both the Friends of the Bay and the Town of Oyster Bay are able to go out and do sampling but not analysis. All the DEC has to arrange for is the analysis but it appears, the DEC lab has to do the analysis.

FOB has a quality assurance plan to do the sampling. It’s water quality sampling results were recently used in determining the health of the Mill Creek Basin in Bayville.

The senator will be meeting with the new DEC commissioner in hopes that the program will get started.

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