Bellport Bay receives more oysters from town
Volunteers from Friends of Bellport Bay gathered to sort oysters last weekend after receiving a donation of 100,000 from Brookhaven Town. The oysters were later seeded in cages in Bellport Bay.

Photos courtesy of Friends of Bellport Bay

Bellport Bay receives more oysters from town



Another 100,000 oysters will be seeded in Bellport Bay this summer as part of an ongoing effort to improve water quality.

Brookhaven Town donated the baby oysters from its shellfish hatchery to Friends of Bellport Bay, a nonprofit organization formed by residents concerned about the health of the bay. When the organization formed in 2015, their goal was to seed 1 million shellfish into the bay by 2020. 

This latest round of oysters from Brookhaven Town will bring them closer to their goal, with an estimated total of 650,000 oysters planted in Bellport Bay. “We’re a little behind our schedule, but our long-term goal is 30 million [shellfish] in 10 years,” said FoBB director Thomas Schultz. 

In addition to oysters, FoBB has also seeded clams and scallops in the bay. “We will be providing 100,000 oysters to [FoBB], but we’re prepared to do even greater numbers,” said Brookhaven Town supervisor Ed Romaine. The town shellfish hatchery in Mt. Sinai has raised over 2 million oysters, 1 million clams and 70,000 scallops, the Supervisor said.

The oysters will be placed into multiple cage systems in Bellport Bay and will also help to populate oyster lanterns at Fireplace Marina.

The marina slip was being considered as a potential site for a Floating Upweller System to grow clams in a statewide shellfish initiative. Cornell Cooperative Extension scouted several locations in the Bellport and Brookhaven hamlet area, but was unable to find a site that could accommodate the clam nursery. According to CCE marine program director Christopher Pickerell, salinity is one of the most important factors taken into consideration when selecting sites.

In April, Schultz collected water for testing at the Fireplace Marina slip. Test results from April 16, April 18 and May 2 reveal an interesting salinity bounce at the marina, which fluctuates with heavy rain. “The salinity bounce is not good for clams, but the good news is that oysters can survive those conditions,” Schultz said last week. 

Pickerell said that the state initiative is only focusing on clams in the first year, but that does not change Bellport’s designation as a “sanctuary site” for mature shellfish.

“We decided to lease the slip in an effort to preserve that space for when [CCE] will focus on oysters in 2019,” Schultz said, adding that FoBB will try to acquire a FLUPSY with or without help from CCE.

“One day the inlet will close and the bay will be left to sustain itself,” Schultz said, adding that a FLUPSY could help the organization achieve their goal. “A healthy shellfish population will go a long way in keeping Bellport Bay.”

This year, Schultz said, the slip will be used to house oyster lanterns, tiered cages that offer an alternative way to grow oysters. Baby oysters are placed in the tiers and then suspended in the water, allowing them to grow out to the 1.5-inch required size to be released into the bay. 

“It will be a good year of experience to document their growth and survival rates with the lanterns and give us a good sense of how oysters truly do in that location,” Schultz said.

The organization is aiming to populate the bay with 1 million shellfish in a double-headed effort to improve water quality and repopulate to sustain the shellfish industry that once thrived in the waters. “Bellport Bay is luckier in some ways than others because of the inlet that is helping flush out the water,” Romaine said. “It’s clearer than it has been in 10 years. It gives us hope for these oysters to grow there.”

Schultz said the breach is one reason FoBB began planting shellfish. 

Romaine pointed out the organization’s unique location near Fire Island. “They’re near restricted areas, where people can’t come in and harvest. It allows the oysters to live out their lifespan,” Romaine said. “I can’t tell you how invaluable Friends of Bellport Bay has been to us and the environment. They are on the front lines of trying to save our bays.”

The town also makes frequent donations to the Stony Brook Yacht Club and Moriches Bay Project, two organizations also working to restore both shellfish and eelgrass into our waterways. Next week, the Moriches Bay Project and Town of Brookhaven will team up with FoBB to plant eelgrass in Bellport Bay.

Later this summer, the Town of Brookhaven is expected to partner with the Moriches Bay Project to create an oyster reef in Harts Cove in East Moriches. The project, which would feature upwards of 20,000 live oysters, is still awaiting state approval. “If it’s successful in Moriches, we could move it to Bellport Bay,” Romaine said.