A recent project in Oak Bluffs to cull the population of Canada geese by addling their eggs has been completed. Town shellfish and environmental officials hope the project will reduce droppings on public greens, including Ocean Park, and reduce bacteria levels in coastal ponds, including Sengekontacket and Farm Pond.
Oak Bluffs shellfish constable David Grunden said data gathered over the past year showed that goose droppings were partially responsible for high bacteria levels in Farm Pond. The town received a permit from Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife to addle the eggs in the nests of Canada geese this spring.
Mr. Grunden said 30 eggs were addled in six nests over the past few months.
High bacteria counts caused the state Division of Marine Fisheries to close down Sengekontacket Pond for shellfishing twice last summer; the pond is now closed on a permanent basis from June 1 through September 30.
Mr. Grunden said goose droppings may be partially responsible for the high bacteria levels in Sengekontacket, although the town will not know for sure until more DNA testing is conducted. He said testing will determine if the source of the bacteria is birds or some other animals such as raccoons, skunks or humans — or more likely a combination of them all.
The testing will also determine what role the growing flock of cormorants around Sengekontacket has played in high bacteria counts in the pond. Many shellfishermen have urged the town to take steps to get rid of the invasive cormorants, but the birds are protected under federal law and the town would need a permit to kill or disrupt them in any way.
Mr. Grunden said addling eggs is an effective way to cull bird populations, because it stops the development of the egg before it hatches. If the eggs are destroyed, he said the mother goose will often lay more.
And while sampling continues at Sengekontacket to determine the source of bacteria, efforts are also underway to dredge the pond to improve tidal circulation. Oak Bluffs currently holds permits to dredge a channel near the Little Bridge and another area on the Edgartown side of the Big Bridge. And the town is working to renew a permit to dredge the long channel between the two bridges.
Meanwhile this week, signs went up around the Island encouraging people to “Save Senge.” The signs are part of a public campaign by a joint committee in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown that is working to clean up Sengekontacket and reopen it for year-round shellfishing.
The committee co-chairmen are Oak Bluffs conservation agent Liz Durkee and Oak Bluffs selectman Duncan Ross.
The committee also plans to develop a management plan to improve circulation, remove sediment, enhance shellfish and restore the eel grass habitat in the pond.