The tens of thousand of oysters dumped along a small island in Bellport Bay in July are taking to their new environment, well, swimmingly.
So says representatives and experts with the Friends of Bellport Bay group, which is spearheading the project.
Prior Coverage: They’re bringing oysters back to Bellport Bay
The organization and its volunteers planted 40,000 seedling oysters, called spat, on July 18 and another 30,000 on Aug. 22, all around Pelican Island between Ho-Hum Beach and the breach at Old Inlet.
The second trip to Ridge Island also provided the group opportunity to check on the older oysters’ progress.
“It’s just a matter of placing them on the bay bottom,” said Thomas Schultz, who founded the group with artist and Katia Read and former Bellport Village mayor David Pate. “Unlike clams oysters don’t move around, so if they get buried they remain buried. We hand to find an area with hard, sandy bottoms.”
The hope is the cooler, saltier waters near the inlet will provide an environment for the oysters to thrive, he said.
And according to Cornell Cooperative Extension aquaculture specialist Gregg Rivara, who’s been commissioned by the group to assist in the project, that’s exactly what’s happening.
“The growth looks excellent,” according to Rivara, responding to an email of photos of the baby oysters, some of which had died on the shell they were attached. But many others had grown several times over during the few weeks in the water near Ridge Island.
“You can see the leading edge is very thin (feathery),” Rivara wrote. “This is an indication of rapid growth. Survival looks good as well.”
Friends of Bellport Bay was founded in Bellport last year. It uses donations through the Bellport Village Program Fund to purchase baby oysters through Cornell, as well as oyster spat provided by Brookhaven Town’s shellfish hatchery in Mount Sinai, for the restocking project.
Oysters populations haven’t been prevalent in the Great South Bay Estuary since the early 1900s.
The group is planning another planting session for later this month or October.
“It will be interesting to see where we are in five years,” Schultz said. “Our goal is a million live oysters in five years.”
Top photos: Seedling oysters, some of which died and some of which have grown tremendously in just a few weeks, attached to a clamshell.
photos courtesy of Friends of Bellport Bay