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Sep 11, 2017 7:14 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Grants Thousands For East Hampton Town Shellfish Hatchery

At the East Hampton Town Shellfish Hatchery on Gann Road at Three Mile Harbor. KYRIL BROMLEY
Sep 12, 2017 11:53 AM

The East Hampton Shellfish Hatchery will get $400,000 in grant funding—almost an entire year’s operating budget—from New York State as part of a water quality improvement initiative unveiled by Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this week.

With the money, the town hatchery will be expected to increase its production of baby clams and oysters, along with the algae needed to feed them in captivity until they are large enough to be released into tidal waters.

The state program focuses on greatly increasing the number of shellfish in Long Island’s bays and harbors in hopes that their natural tendencies to feed on algae will help tamp down destructive algae blooms that have plagued the island’s waters since the late 1980s.

The program sends more than $7 million to hatchery programs around the island—the largest chunk to the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Southold, and another $3 million to purchasing adult shellfish to establish new sanctuaries in the wild in hopes of expanding natural reproduction.

Currently, the East Hampton Shellfish Hatchery, whose main facility is in Montauk but which also maintains growing sites in Three Mile Harbor, produces about 30 million larval clams, 6 million larval oysters and several hundred thousand scallops each year. The hatchery staff grow as many as 2 million oysters and 8 million clams to “seed” size to be released into town waters.

“It will be fun working with Cornell, who I assume will be the lead on this program, and, hopefully, we’ll see some good results in terms of water quality out of this,” said Barley Dunne, director of the town hatchery.

State officials visited the Montauk hatchery earlier this summer, to see how the facility operated as they finalized the plan and funding resources for the state program.

“They wanted to see the nature of the program that Barley runs there,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said. “They were talking about the ability to expand the production of juvenile shellfish and grow-out capacity, and clearly they wanted to see us increase our production capabilities. So we are very happy to be included in that program.”

Mr. Dunne said that, depending on the directives that ultimately come down from the state with the grant money, the town is likely to use the money to add more nursery tanks and pumps, and expand the number of floating cages in which the shellfish grow to the size they are when released in Three Mile Harbor. He said they also hope to be able to use the funding to add a full-time staff member, something the facility has been seeking for years.

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