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Cornell Cooperative Shellfish Program Gets Under Way

Program produces eight million oysters, clams and scallops each year.

Earlier this week, employees and volunteers from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Southold Project in Aquaculture Training were out on the Moriches Bay doing their part to supply the waters off Southampton and Southold with shellfish.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, volunteers, including ones from the Barrier Beach Preservation Association of West Hampton Dunes, began the process of recovering oysters from oyster garden sanctuaries housed in the volunteers' backyards.

Once gathered, the oysters were placed in Moriches Bay to spawn.

According to Gina Mulhearn, program coordinator for Cornell, the gardens are incredibly efficient in keeping the oysters healthy, protected and in close proximity to spawn and produce millions of offspring.”

Mulhearn said the garden program, which started four years ago, has already resulted in the production of eight million oysters, clams and scallops each year.

The oyster program is part of the 11-year-old Southold Project in Aquaculture Training, which is aimed at encouraging community members to become stewards of their environment and to restore the shellfish to the bays by helping to maintain a hatchery and nursery, called the Spat Shack.

To date, Cornell says more than 400 people have taken part in the garden program that also offers monthly workshops, shellfish seed and tools to create shellfish gardens in their own waterfronts or at Cornell’s community garden.

Volunteers are permitted to harvest half the shellfish they produce.

This season, Mulhearn said, nearly 7,000 mature oysters were placed into the bay by the families of West Hampton Dunes.

“This will produce a huge plume of new oysters spawn into Moriches Bays,” she said.

Other oysters and shellfish will be placed in area waters at later dates from two other programs on the south shore, including those run by volunteers from the Sag Harbor Oyster Club and the town of Southampton’s Parks Department summer program, which is open to the public to participate in at the Annex at Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays.

Cornell Cooperative also runs a horseshoe crab program in the area. For more information, click here.

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