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Jul 24, 2018 11:14 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Moriches Bay Project Volunteers Build New Oyster Farm On Dune Road

Ava Kuklis looks at the oysters. ELSIE BOSKAMP
Jul 25, 2018 10:19 AM

Volunteers with the Moriches Bay Project, a nonprofit organization seeking to improve water quality in the local bay, built a fourth oyster farm, composed of 10 oyster cages and 10,000 juvenile oysters, on Saturday morning at the West Hampton Dunes Overlook, on Dune Road in West Hampton Dunes.

Dozens of community members and local families helped make the floating plastic cages, which house 1,000 oysters each, and attached them to ropes, and buoys, in the bay.

The oysters, which were spawned in March at shellfish hatcheries in Southold, will stay in the cages until they are about an inch and a half long. Once they reach adult size, toward the end of the summer, they’ll be relocated to three oyster beds in Moriches Bay to begin filtering and flushing out bacteria in the water.

“One adult oyster filters 50 gallons of water every single day,” the project’s director and co-founder, Laura Fabrizio, said. “We’re trying to make a real dent in improving water quality.”

Moriches Bay has been identified as having too much nitrogen by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The Moriches Bay Project was founded in 2013 with the goal of cleaning up the bay, reducing the amount of nitrogen in the local waterway and restoring the oyster population on the South Fork.

The shellfish naturally filter oceans and bays, and remove excess nitrogen, by pumping water through their shells and flesh. As the water naturally moves through the oyster, algae and pollutants become trapped, and the oyster digests any captured particles.

This year, the organization is on track to place more than a half million oysters in the bay, which, in turn, will filter 25 billion gallons of water and remove 848 pounds of nitrogen. As of last year, approximately 775,000 oysters had been placed since 2013, 400,000 of which were just put in the bay last year.

“People getting involved is what makes this whole thing work,” Senior Scientist Dwight Surgan said.

An army of volunteers, many of whom helped build the farm on Saturday, regularly clean and monitor the organization’s four farms and five floating upweller systems, or FLUPSYS, systems which house up to 100,000 oysters and pump nutrient-rich water through holding cells to promote oyster growth.

The artificial growth of oysters is necessary to maintaining large populations of the shellfish on the East End, because, in nature, more than 90 percent of young oysters are eaten by crabs, snails and birds, according to Kim Tetrault, community aquaculture specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, which has partnered with the Moriches Bay Project.

When the oysters are put in the cages, “I’ve seen upward of 90 percent survival, so that’s a lot different than 90 percent mortality,” he said. He noted that, in about two weeks, the oysters in the new farm, which were smaller than the size of a dime, likely will double in size.

The farm, which is the third on Dune Road, was sponsored by BNB Bank.

“It was very easy to be involved in something that basically benefits two of our most important resources—the water and involving young people,” said Kevin O’Connor, the bank’s president and chief executive officer. “We’re a community bank, and we want to give back to these organizations, and support the local community.”

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Great job all! Literally doing "God's work"
By johnj (1019), Westhampton on Jul 24, 18 2:06 PM
Nothing but greenwash! The scale of the project is far too small to do much and Kim Tetrault is, as usual, blowing sunshine and smoke as far as mortality rates for Crassostrea virginica in a cultured environment go... Hey, Kim How about some hard published data as opposed to the proverbial what you've "seen". You really do a disservice to the scientific method. The whole idea that oysters are a solution to how we've soiled our waters is just a "feel good" illusion.
By Just sitting on the taffrail (40), Southampton on Jul 24, 18 5:06 PM
Great idea, but we have to STOP the source of the pollution. Look at WH/ Quogue canal, see all the lush, fertilized, irrigated lawns right to the waters edge.

these owners could start by example and plant natural grasses to rid the pollution...
By knitter (1893), Southampton on Jul 25, 18 9:40 AM
power tools, home improvements, building supplies, Eastern Long Island