Environmental groups file intent to sue fishing company

Posted: Updated:

The Earth Justice environmental law firm is churning up the tide against a fishing company accused of "strip mining" the waters of Oyster Bay, according to a notice of intent to sue.

Kevin McCallister of Defend H20 -- another group involved in the legal process -- says the Frank M. Flower & Sons shellfish farming operation uses hydraulic dredges and vacuum suction to collect its catch.

"The constant impact to the bottom is extremely destructive," McCallister says.

That's because Flower & Sons' boats allegedly use high-power jets to churn up the bay's floor as part of the fishing operation.

"At the crux of the issue is there isn't proper permitting to allow the operation to continue," McCallister says. "That's at the center of the intent to sue. They do not have the permits. If the agencies would actually scrutinize the operation, then it would be very difficult to issue the permits under the Clean Water Act."

Traditional clammers like Bill Painter and the members of the North Oyster Bay Baymen's Association have been at odds with Flower & Sons for years over its hydraulic harvesters.

"It's mind-blowing they can conduct an operation like this in a national wildlife refuge," Painter says.

Earth Justice says even the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has recognized hydraulic dredging as "especially destructive."

For its part, Flower & Sons issued a statement dismissing the intent to sue, implying that Earth Justice was just siding with its competitors.

"Frank M. Flower operates in compliance with all required federal, state and local laws," the statement concluded.

As far as the Town of Oyster Bay is concerned, officials there say the dredging issue is out of their hands -- and their clam rakes -- as a matter of state and federal law.

MORE: Read the notice of intent to sue below:

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