The Story

Dewitt Davies, the chief environmental analyst at the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning, was the project coordinator for the 1987 hard-clam revitalization project. Today he oversees many of the Working Group’s revitalization efforts, including ongoing pollution-control projects and different forms of controlled breeding such as hatchery-born clams.

The Working Group and The Nature Conservancy continue many of the recommendations made in the 1987 report, yet “. . . all restoration work done to date has not yet resulted in a consistent large-scale rebound of the hard clam population,” said the Working Group’s 2008 report.

Despite the best efforts of Davies and The Nature Conservancy, steady reproductive success remains elusive. There have been years of success, like sharp spikes in 1995 and 2007, attributed to a fortunate turn of events, as documented by The Nature Conservancy. However, brown tide and other damaging algal blooms continue to inhibit steady growth.

Natural conditions in the Great South Bay affecting clam growth vary between natural water salinity, the ratio of predators to clams and the ability of the bay to filter out excess nitrogen.

“Any time you try and alter a natural system,” said Davies, “there is always a chance that the natural conditions that exist may not allow it to change.”

Efforts have been made to reduce the excessive nitrogen, such as pollution cleanup and the monitoring of brown tide. The breaches in Fire Island have also acted as a natural filter for the bay, according to The Nature Conservancy.