Last week the Oyster Festival returned after a three-year hiatus due to COVID. The festival has been a wonderful way to celebrate what has been symbolic of our bay for centuries -- an abundance of oysters. But, as was the case in 2019, none of the 60,000 oysters consumed at this year’s event came from Oyster Bay. That’s because very few oysters remain in our harbor.
Throughout history, the bay has been among the most productive shellfishing harbors in New York. Not long ago, it produced as much as 90 percent of all the oysters harvested in the state. The vast majority of those oysters were produced at the Frank M. Flower & Sons hatchery and seeded in the bay to grow for later harvest by Flower and local baymen. But that hatchery has been closed for several years and the company is no longer seeding the vast acres of the bay that it leases from the Town of Oyster Bay. While the company may cease operations in the harbor when its current lease expires in 2024, it retains the right to continue harvesting until that time. This could result in the leased beds being largely devoid of shellfish.
Combined with the fact that the shellfish populations on the remaining non-leased public portions of the bay are already badly depleted, we face the potential for a bleak situation for fishermen and recreational users.
In a natural sustainable state, shellfish provide a wide range of ecological benefits. They filter and clean the water, are a valuable food source, and reproduce to provide seed to other areas of the bay. Reefs of oysters protect shorelines from erosion, and they provide shelter and habitat for numerous other species, So any estuary with a declining shellfish population is itself in decline.
Friends of the Bay has been working closely with the town to create a bay management plan to ensure a healthy shellfish population and, in turn, a healthy and productive bay. This plan must prioritize maintaining a shellfish population in sufficient numbers to provide all the benefits of a natural ecosystem. This will, in turn, provide sustainable commercial harvests. This plan should include the following:
Reserve large areas as spawner sanctuaries and make seeding there a priority.
Identify and protect shoreline areas suitable for oyster reef restoration and secure funding for their construction.
Encourage sustainable oyster growth off the bay bottom that minimizes disruptive harvest practices.
Establish a public hatchery capable of producing significant numbers of shellfish seed. (The town already has a small hatchery and is working on an expanded one.)
Prohibit relocation of shellfish from areas closed for harvesting due to poor water quality unless there is a sound environmental reason so these areas can serve as shellfish spawning sanctuaries.
Increase enforcement and fines for poaching.
Create a town Shellfish Advisory Committee of stakeholders to regularly review conditions and make recommendations. (The town has already agreed to do this.)
To its credit, the Town has been very receptive to our suggestions and has already implemented many of them.
For the future of the harbor and all who benefit from it, it is imperative that we continue to build upon these early successes in providing for the replacement of shellfish being rapidly depleted by harvesting, pollution and natural forces. Failing to do so will be catastrophic for our bay.
But if we take the necessary actions, hopefully the tens of thousands of visitors to the Oyster Festival once again will enjoy oysters from Oyster Bay.
- Friends of the Bay
- Newsday 8/14/22
- Newsday 8/11/22
First Beach Cleanup of 2022 - Stehli Beach
Friends of the Bay held their first volunteer beach cleanup event of 2022 at Stehli Beach this past Saturday. Over 50 enthusiastic volunteers of all ages braved the cold and the wind to help collect over 300 pounds of trash from the beach and beach parking lot. Representatives were present from Cub Scout Pack 406 of South Huntington as well as Our Lady of Mercy Academy and several other schools in the surrounding area. Christine Suter, Program Coordinator of Friends of the Bay said, “I love hosting these events because there is so much enthusiasm and positive energy among the volunteers. It’s always great to see the familiar faces of people who regularly volunteer with us as well as to meet newcomers who we are getting to engage with for the first time.”
Friends of the Bay deploys kelp cultivation lines in Oyster Bay
Friends of the Bay (FOB) has deployed several lines of kelp spores to cultivate kelp as a sustainable means of supporting the environment and the economy of Oyster Bay. Placing the lines in two areas of Oyster Bay on Sunday, December 29, was part of a project with the Moore Family Charitable Foundation and its Lazy Point Farms LLC. The kelp spores on the lines will grow into a brown seaweed known colloquially as “sugar kelp” that will continue to grow throughout the winter and be harvested next May. FOB will be responsible for managing the two cultivation sites, collecting data on the growth and condition of the kelp, and water-quality monitoring. The Moore foundation is supporting the effort with a $2,000 donation to FOB. Mitch Kramer, owner of TowBoatU.S. in Oyster Bay and FOB vice president, provided one of his boats, and he, employee Nick Casella and two volunteers, Leo Imperial and his 15-year-old son James, deployed the kelp lines. The materials from Lazy Point Farms were delivered to Oyster Bay from West Sayville by David Gugerty, a state Supreme Court justice from Bayville, who has been involved in kelp-growing experiments in the village for several years. Kramer said the kelp spores came affixed to cotton strings that are wrapped around a cylinder “like a spool of kite string.” The rope on which the kelp is grown is fed through the cylinder and the cotton line with the spores is transferred from the cylinder and wrapped around the rope. “This partnership with Lazy Point Farms will allow us to gather valuable information about kelp and its impact on water quality,” FOB Executive Director Heather Johnson said. “With kelp being grown at other locations on Long Island, it will be interesting to see all the results.” Wendy Moore, president of the foundation and executive director of Lazy Point Farms, commented that “we are grateful for the chance to support Friends of the Bay's interest in growing sugar kelp as part of their program. We think sugar kelp has the potential to benefit Long Island communities in so many ways.” Sugar kelp is gaining recognition as a sustainable aquaculture crop that can provide nutritional as well as commercial and economic benefits. It is a winter crop that can be grown in the same areas leased by shellfish growers. It requires no chemicals or fertilizer to grow and provides important ecosystem services including the removal of excess nutrients and carbon dioxide from the surrounding waters in addition to providing a safe environment for fish and other small marine organisms.
Photo credits: Leo Imperial
Photo credits Dave Gugerty
Hundreds of Abandoned Lobster Traps to Be Removed in Joint Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, Friends of the Bay and Town of Oyster Bay Project
Hundreds of abandoned and derelict lobster traps that continue to catch and kill marine life in Long Island Sound off Oyster Bay will be removed over the next year by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (CCE) in partnership with Friends of the Bay (FOB) and the Town of Oyster Bay. A $115,841 grant will fund removal of derelict lobster gear from 18 square miles between New York and Connecticut. About two thirds of the traps to be removed – probably more than 600 – are off Oyster Bay and the remainder will be removed off the Connecticut shore. When all of the arrangements are finalized, hopefully by early next year, the traps located off Oyster Bay in a side-scan sonar survey arranged by FOB will be removed by a lobstermen hired by CCE and monitored by its employees to make sure they are eligible for removal under the terms of the organization’s permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. FOB’s remote drone camera may be used to survey the traps before they are brought to the surface to expedite the project. The traps will be collected in 20 trips and brought to shore in Oyster Bay to be stored by the Town of Oyster Bay at a site to be determined for a month to allow any fisherman who lost the gear to reclaim it before it is recycled. The project is one of 39 totaling $5.4 million to be funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to enable environmental improvements around Long Island Sound. The genesis of the project was a side-scan sonar survey that volunteer Ben Roberts of Amagansett, founder of Eastern Search & Survey, conducted for FOB in September 2020. Where there is a dropoff in depth to 60 or 70 feet, his equipment identified more than 700 targets which may be abandoned and/or illegal traps in the Sound east and west of Lloyd Point off the entrance to Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor. CCE said in a statement that it “is grateful for the support from The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Long Island Sound Futures Fund as it ensures that our critical work to protect and enhance the environment continues. This funding enables our experts to work to restore the health of the Long Island Sound by removing floating debris and derelict lobster gear that negatively impact our waters and a once thriving lobster industry.” FOB President Bill Bleyer said that “this project will have a positive impact in solving an environmental problem that few people realize exists. These abandoned traps continue to attract and ultimately kill a large amount of marine life.” Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino stated that “the removal of these ghost traps from Long Island Sound is a vital project for the health of the marine environment. We are happy to offer our resources in the spirit of teamwork to recycle and discard these abandoned traps.” Riverhead-based CCE has been conducting a trap removal project on the North Shore of Long Island for 11 years. By partnering with commercial lobstermen with local knowledge, they are able to go out on the Sound and grapple for traps that have been lost and have no buoys. They have recovered more than 20,000 traps so far. Once brought to the surface, they are checked for live organisms, and transported to land where they are temporarily stored for a month at local municipal sites. During that time, CCE, with help from the state DEC, attempts to contact any fisherman with identification tags remaining on the traps to see if they want them back. Through cooperative agreements, unclaimed traps are compacted by the local municipality and then loaded into receptacles donated by a metal recycling company. All non-recyclable debris is taken by Covanta Energy to be used through their waste-to-energy program. Occasionally waste traps have been used by artists for marine debris art installations.
Image credit: Ben Roberts
Image credits: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County
Image credits: Bill Bleyer with Ben Roberts
Efforts to Mitigate a Decline in Shellfish Facilitated by Federal Grant
Efforts to reverse a shellfish population decline in Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor are being supported by a newly announced $86,815 federal grant. Friends of the Bay, in partnership with Adelphi University and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and with the support of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee and the Town of Oyster Bay, has received an $86,815 grant for the Long Island Sound Futures Fund project. The project, “Expanding Oyster Spawning Sanctuaries in Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor,” is being funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) in partnership with the Long Island Sound Study, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This project will support establishment in Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor of oyster spawner sanctuaries, where harvesting is prohibited and oysters can reproduce and supplement existing populations. The project will also quantify the success of oyster transplantation, areas where juvenile oysters (“spat”) settle, and develop a hydrological model for the area that identifies additional potential sanctuaries.
The grant will also be used to support and expand the North Shore Oyster Gardening Program run by the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee. The program provides local property owners with the training, equipment, and ongoing support necessary to successfully “garden” juvenile oysters in floats off their property (i.e. bulkhead or dock) or on community floats. The oysters grown are placed in the spawner sanctuary at the end of the season. Restoration of oyster habitat in bays along Long Island Sound requires protection from overharvesting, survival of adult oysters, and robust settlement of juvenile oysters.
The Town of Oyster Bay has established a spawner sanctuary in Cold Spring Harbor, where approximately 350,000 oysters (40mm) have been deposited over the last three years. Additional sanctuary sites in Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor are under consideration.
Community Cleanup of South Street
On November 13th, Friends of the Bay partnered with the Oyster Bay Main Street Association to sponsor a cleanup of South Street in Oyster Bay. An enthusiastic group of volunteers helped collect numerous bag of litter from the surrounding area.
A Letter from Friends of the Bay on our Declining Shellfish Population
This letter is an alert to all who appreciate the ecological and scenic value of Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor – those who enjoy the views, spend time on the beaches or cruising, sailing, fishing or paddling on the waterways. Most residents know that regional water quality has been improving since environmental legislation was enacted in the 1970s, bringing upgraded sewage treatment and other strategies to reduce pollution. But what many people in the area don’t know is that our shellfish population, particularly our namesake oysters, has suffered a serious decline. And fewer oysters and clams, which filter the water, means dirtier water and a threat to the livelihood of commercial harvesters and the health and enjoyment of recreational users. To deal with the problem, several steps should be taken. Friends of the Bay’s leadership met recently with Town of Oyster Bay officials to share our recommendations on shellfish management. The town was very receptive to our suggestions and had already planned to implement many of them. Friends of the Bay believes the following steps must be taken to improve the health of the bay and make the shellfish population sustainable for the long run: Click here to continue reading. By the Friends of the Bay Board of Directors
- Oyster Bay Herald 12/10/21
- Anton Media Group 12/1/21
- The Leader 10/27/21
- Newsday 5/10/21
Western Waterfront Raingardens Project
Friends of the Bay this past weekend installed two raingardens on the Western Waterfront on the south shore of Oyster Bay Harbor.
The Western Waterfront Raingardens Project was made possible by a $6000 grant from the Long Island Sound Stewardship Fund at the Long Island Community Foundation. Partners on the project are the Town of Oyster Bay, Nassau County Soil & Water Conservation District and the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary & Audubon Center. More than a dozen volunteers from Friends of the Bay and the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary with the help of the town installed the raingardens, which are located in front of the 9/11 Memorial, across from Building J, home of the Ida May Project.
Raingardens are landscapes that capture and treat stormwater runoff. Rainwater travels over roads, roofs, driveways and lawns, before draining into our waterways. Along the way it erodes and transports soils and degraded plant material, picks up trash, nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, trace metals, oils, bacteria and pesticides. These pollutants and sediments that are carried can degrade groundwater and surface water quality and result in the loss of aquatic habitat.
Raingardens help by reducing the flow rate of runoff, and the soil, bacteria and plants absorb much of the pollutants before they enter the groundwater and waterways.
The best plants for raingardens are those that thrive in a “drought and drench” environment. Native plants, like the ones used in these raingardens, require little or no fertilizer, are excellent food sources for pollinators, and provide habitat for birds, insects and butterflies. Once established, their deep roots increase the water-holding capacity of the soil, bind it together and prevent erosion.