DOAG: CONNECTICUT SHELLFISH COMMISSIONS



March 20, 2019

CONNECTICUT SHELLFISH COMMISSIONS

Kristin DeRosia-Banick, Bureau of Aquaculture

 

Connecticut’s shellfish industry and recreational shellfishing programs benefit greatly from the dedication of municipal shellfish commissions throughout the state of Connecticut.

The Department of Agriculture (DoAg)’s Bureau of Aquaculture works closely with these commissions to closely monitor the entire coastline, from Stonington to Greenwich, to ensure the harvest of safe shellfish.

These partnerships are critical to our state’s shellfish program. With limited staff and its laboratory in Milford, it is challenging for DoAg to cover the entire coastline, particularly those areas at the far eastern and western ends of the state.

Shellfish commissions comprise paid and unpaid volunteers whose responsibility in the field is similar to that of DoAg staff.

DoAg environmental analysts train volunteers in proper sampling techniques, sample handling, and documentation.

Shellfish commissions must sample their growing areas at least once a month throughout the year in order to comply with National Shellfish Sanitation Program requirements. These requirements necessitate sampling during challenging conditions, including adverse weather and following significant rain events. 

DoAg and municipal shellfish commissions work hard to ensure that shellfish areas can be reopened quickly after pollution events in order to get commercial and recreational harvesters back to work.

One of DoAg’s longest shellfish commission partnerships has been with Greenwich. The Greenwich Shellfish Commission samples all nearshore Greenwich town waters, as well as the offshore state waters for the program. 

Greenwich manages a popular recreational area in Greenwich Cove, as well as a number of different nearshore recreational areas and offshore commercial areas. 

A complete sampling run in Greenwich consists of 35 samples and can take anywhere from an hour-and-a-half to two-hours on the water depending on the weather, plus several hours of driving on I-95 to transport samples to the Milford lab.

The Greenwich Shellfish Commission averages about 30 sampling trips a year of varying length. The Town of Greenwich benefits from paying their volunteers a stipend for their time and allowing greater flexibility to sample during the workweek. 

One such dedicated shellfish commission member is Jay Louden, who has been instrumental in keeping the seawater monitoring program in Greenwich running smoothly for the past eight years. Mr. Louden recently retired and was honored by the commission for his work leading those efforts for the commission on March 2, 2019.

In 1995, Jay and his wife moved from New Hartford, CT to take possession of his family home in Old Greenwich. They had considered selling, but decided instead to keep the house and seek employment locally.

Jay began his work in this part of the state as a boat builder in the small craft exhibit hall at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, subsequently taking a staff position at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich in their exhibit department.

During his time with the Maritime Aquarium, Jay’s boss learned that Jay was the owner of some family shellfish beds in Greenwich, and encouraged him to connect with local shellfish harvesters. 

Jay built his own mini version of an Ed Stilwagen designed vacuum dredge vessel, which uses a minimal jet of water to loosen clams from the bottom and a vacuum system to suck them onto the boat. Jay then began harvesting clams from his old family grounds.

In 2010, as the shellfish market collapsed, Jay concluded that his small operation was no longer likely to be profitable. He sold the boat and strongly considered retirement. 

That was not to be the end of Jay’s shellfish career however. Upon recommendation from David Carey, director of DoAg’s Bureau of Aquaculture, Jay received an invitation from the chair of the Greenwich Shellfish Commission, Roger Bowgen, to join the commission as their boat captain and lead for the sampling program. 

After taking several trips with Commissioner Bill Gremp and their captain at the time, Jay was convinced and accepted the position, taking his first run as an employee in the fall of 2011.

The DoAg Bureau of Aquaculture staff would like to extend their sincere thanks and gratitude to Jay for his commitment to working with DoAg and on behalf of the shellfish commission to enhance opportunities for recreational and commercial shellfishing in Greenwich. 

He made a big impression on those of us fortunate enough to work with him over the years, and his personality, fine sense of humor and (not so well-hidden) rebellious streak have given us years of laughter and entertainment.  

We wish Jay the best in his retirement, and remain hopeful that his move to the eastern end of the state does not mean the end of his connection with the shellfish world.