Huntington and Cornell Cooperative Extension deploy oysters for harbor duty

Huntington and Cornell Cooperative Extension deploy oysters for harbor duty

The Town of Huntington placed clams in Huntington Harbor Sept. 26. On Sept. 27, spat-on shell oysters were deployed into the water. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Town of Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth (R) greeted members of Cornell Cooperative Extension Suffolk County’s Marine Program and the town’s Maritime Services department before they headed out on the water this week.

File photo by Kimberly Brown

An expedition leaving Gold Star Battalion Beach dock out into Huntington Harbor Sept. 27 was the first of two projects. Monday, the town and CCE representatives placed seed clams in the water, and Tuesday, the group deployed spat-on-shell oysters.

As groups of spat grow into mature oysters, they create a reef and help to filtrate waterways. Cleaner water leads to species diversity which in turn helps to support the local shellfish industry.

The clams released into the harbor can be harvested and consumed once they are mature.

Garrett Chelius, Huntington deputy director of Maritime Services, said 250,000 clams were being placed, and about 7,000 oysters this week.

“The oysters are more for habitat,” he said. “They get deployed to make kind of an artificial reef to create food sources and hiding spaces for other animals and other fish, and they filter 50 gallons of water a day for each oyster.” 

The oysters, he said, are placed strategically using GPS coordinates from CCE. The clams can be spread out. It takes approximately three years for the clams, which have already reached one year, to be mature enough to be harvested. 

Smyth added the shellfish currently are about the size of a nickel. The supervisor said working with CCE in their efforts to clean Huntington waters with natural resources has been a successful partnership and the initiative is an easy one.

“As far as growing them, it’s very low maintenance,” he said. Volunteers “put them into the racks that are underneath the docks, and they’re protected.”

The program runs at Gold Star Battalion Beach, Asharoken Beach and Crescent Beach at Huntington Bay where volunteers help to care for the shellfish. The town hopes to expand the program next year.