Almost as inevitable as taxes is the springtime return of red tide to the Nauset estuary.
“It is a fairly annual occurrence,” Natural Resources Manager Nate Sears wrote in an email. “It happens more often than not.”
On April 4, Nauset estuary and parts of other areas were closed to shellfishing until further notice. Testing revealed the presence of the algal blooms that can sometimes redden the water.
As shellfish feed, according to the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, they take in and store neurotoxins from the blooms, making them unsafe to eat. The good news is that the shellfish themselves remain healthy and will eventually purge the toxins and be safe to consume.
The effects of the bloom can be felt from six to eight weeks, and the timing of this one is particularly tough given the recent nor'easters.
“A closure on the tail of bad weather does impact quite a few families negatively,” said Al Cestaro, an Eastham native who runs a small commercial fishing operation out of Rock Harbor. “Some of the wild harvest guys are one-man operations.”
Cestaro's company has a small fleet of boats and the necessary permits to shift locations at times like these. “Instead of harvesting in Nauset estuary, we went over to Cape Cod Bay, but that's problematic for some fishermen,” he said. “My business model revolves around being diversified. Some may not have those resources. There's an expense that comes with owning boats and state permits.”
There would be more opportunities for shellfishers, Cestaro said, if towns would take “a comprehensive look at their resource area, which starts with good science,” to identify more places for harvesting. “How can you manage a resource area if you don't know what's there?” Working against that is the cost of doing the assessments and a culture that has some fishermen opposed to bringing more people into the industry.
“That's an antiquated way of thinking,” said Cestaro. “With the science available now, we can truly understand what is in the resource area and what methods are the best or worst to harvest these products. You have to be objective, and you have to really look for a partnership with the scientific community and the environmentalists and policy makers to get a comprehensive look at an area and figure out what makes sense.”
- Nauset estuary
- Meetinghouse Pond, north of a line drawn around the floating docks at Nauset Marine East
- Paw Wah Pond and the entrance creek
- Pochet Creek, north of a line drawn from the “No Shellfishing” sign on Pochet Neck to the “No Shellfishing” sign on the opposite shore (Nauset Beach)
- Rock Harbor, Namskaket and Little Namskaket creeks, inside of lines drawn across the mouth of each
RESTRICTED AREAS OPEN FOR FAMILY PERMITS ONLY
- Lonnie's Pond, from the launching ramp at the town landing and south to the herring run creek
- Quanset Pond and Little Quanset Pond, east of a line drawn from the middle of the point to the pier on the opposite shore and to a depth of three feet as measured at low water