The Shellfish Restoration Project is a hands on project. Volunteers assist in the growing of the shellfish seed and placing them into protected sanctuaries. Generally shellfish seed, usually oysters, bay scallops or clams are donated or purchased. When we get them, they are only an eighth to a quarter of an inch in size when they are put into protective cages. The cages need to be cleaned every two weeks. At which time data is collected to determine water temperature, growth rates, predator and disease frequency and mortality.
The Coastal Steward has been involved with Shellfish Restoration Project since 2000. To date more than 230,000 adult shellfish have been released into Port Jefferson and Mt. Sinai Harbors. Volunteers must clean the protective cages every two weeks. While cleaning the gear volunteers sort and reduce the density of the oysters and bay scallops. Survival rates are also recorded. Our goal is to establish a self-sustaining population of oysters in the harbors.
The shellfish, American oysters that we use are from a disease resistant strain that also has a visible genetic marker which is black stripes on their shell. This marker allows us to gauge our success verses natural stock. The marker is found naturally but in very low numbers. Oyster populations around Long Island are only at an estimated 1% of their historical high. The bay scallop portion of the project is still in the preliminary stage.
The results of our efforts are starting to show success. Initial surveys indicate that 95% of the oysters found at low tide have the black stripes. Harvest levels are still significantly low but improving. Continuing the shellfish restoration project is critical to establishing a self-sustaining population of disease resistant oysters. Water quality also benefits from this project, since an adult oyster can filter more than 50 gallons of water per day, thus removing organic and inorganic material from the water column. The oysters are released into sanctuaries that the CS created with the town. We work closely with the Town of Brookhaven. They supply us with the oyster seed, a facility to place and work our gear, which include three aquaculture platforms, two boats, thousands of shellfish cages, a storage trailer and various other equipment that we use in the project.
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