The Shellfish Restoration Program is a hands-on project. Volunteers assist in the growing of the shellfish seed and placing them into protected sanctuaries. Coastal Steward Long Island has been restoring shellfish since the year 2000. To date, more than 230,000 adult shellfish have been released into Port Jefferson and Mt. Sinai Harbors. Our goal is to establish a self-sustaining population of oysters in our harbors.
Generally, shellfish seed (usually oysters), bay scallops, or clams are donated or purchased. When we first get the shellfish, they are only an eighth to a quarter of an inch in size, and they are put into protective cages. Volunteers may aid in the biweekly cleaning of the tanks. At which time, data is collected to determine water temperature, growth rates, and more.
The American oysters that we use are from a disease resistant strain, which is genetically marked by the black stripes on their shell. The marker is found naturally as well, but in very low numbers; therefore, we can gauge our success in oyster growth based on how many black striped oysters we observe. The results of our efforts throughout the years have shown success. Initial surveys indicate that 95% of the oysters found at low tide have black stripes.
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 CSLI has created with while working closely with the Town of Brookhaven. They supply us with the oyster seed and a facility to place and operate our systems, including our boat, three aquaculture platforms, hundreds of shellfish cages, a storage trailer, and more.
We'll be meeting at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai roughly every two weeks from May through to October to clean our shellfish tanks, maintain our shed, and give tours of the shellfish hatchery.
Please check our Events page and look for Shellfish Restoration Program Day to come out and help us restore our local shellfish population. We look forward to seeing you there!