Tags Posts tagged with "Oysters"


A view of Port Jefferson Harbor from Harborfront Park. File photo by Elana Glowatz

On Wednesday, April 13, two guest speakers presented to the Port Jefferson Harbor Commission on the state of Port Jeff Harbor and its future.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, shared the history of the harbor commission over the last two decades.

“Up until 2000, the commission hadn’t been created and every village kind of did its own thing and the [Town of Brookhaven] did its own thing,” he said. “You had overlapping regulations in terms of boat speeds and where you could clam and where you could moor.”

This changed after the 2000 Port Jefferson Harbor Management Plan, which directed the various coastal municipalities in the area on how to best manage the harbor. Today, the villages and the town coordinate their efforts through the harbor commission, which harmonizes laws to monitor boating safety, establish mooring fields and regulate maritime traffic. While the villages have succeeded in these areas, Hoffman suggests the commission now has the experience and know-how to devote greater attention to water quality.

“Now that you have all of the other issues kind of resolved, I think now it’s time to consider how this commission can start to help manage the harbor itself as an environmental entity,” Hoffman said.

MS4 regulations

During the first hour of a storm event, rain often carries harmful contaminants from lawns, roads and sidewalks, discharging oils, bacteria and particulate metals into nearby surface waters. This phenomenon poses a hazard to marine life.

In an effort to reduce contamination of surface waters during storm events, new state regulations will require coastal municipalities to develop a more comprehensive stormwater management program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released guidelines regulating small municipal stormwater sewer systems, known as MS4s.

“I actually think that the Port Jeff Harbor Commission could be a great vehicle to help all the municipalities comply.”

— George Hoffman

Under the existing policy, local governments are given wide latitude over the maintenance of their MS4s. “In the ’50s and ’60s, we never really gave a thought about stormwater — we just figured if it goes into the harbor, then it will dilute and everything will be fine,” Hoffman said. “We found out that that’s just not the way to go. This really has significant impacts.” 

With stricter directives and harsher penalties under these new regulations, Hoffman noted the need for personnel: “That’s never a good thing for municipalities because you have to fund those positions and budgets are always tough no matter where you are.” He added that the Port Jefferson Harbor Commission — which includes officials from the town as well as the villages of Port Jefferson, Belle Terre, Poquott and Old Field — already have the infrastructure in place through the commission to coordinate their efforts in complying with these directives. 

“I actually think that the Port Jeff Harbor Commission could be a great vehicle to help all the municipalities comply,” Hoffman said. “If every village has to go out and hire its own computer programmer to do the mapping of the stormwater, and has to hire somebody to run the public meetings and has to identify all the groups that are interested — it seems to me that it would be better if we all pulled together through this commission and handle all of our MS4 responsibilities together.” 

Acknowledging the limitations of an all-volunteer commission, Hoffman’s plan would have the various villages appropriate funds to hire part-time personnel to oversee MS4 regulatory compliance: “This can actually save your villages money because if everybody pools their resources together, you can probably just get one person in here — and it wouldn’t even have to be a full-time position — to help manage the MS4 regulations.”

Public outreach is also a major component of these new guidelines. Hoffman said that under the current policy, public hearings are not mandated. Now, municipalities must hold public hearings to identify the stakeholders in their areas and report on the quality of their surface waters. Again, Hoffman said the commission can make it easier to satisfy this condition.

With greater emphasis on water quality, he said the commission can also tap into the Long Island Sound Study, a program that offers grants to protect and restore the Sound.

“The Long Island Sound Study has been in existence now for 20 years,” Hoffman said. “It’s a pact between Connecticut and New York and all of the federal monies for the Long Island Sound go through it.” Referring to the Setauket Harbor Task Force, he added, “Our group is part of the Citizens Advisory Committee and we’re very active members of that group — that’s the one that gives out the grants for $10 million.”

Planting oysters and clams

Alan Duckworth, environmental analyst with the Town of Brookhaven, also addressed the commission during the meeting. His presentation highlighted a recent undertaking by the town to improve water quality of its harbors through the planting of large numbers of oysters and clams.

In recent years, the town has attempted to strengthen its understanding of the quality of its harbors and bays, and also the pathogens and contaminants that pollute them. While traditional testing indicates that the quality of Port Jeff Harbor has improved, Duckworth notes some notable deficiencies in these testing schemes.

“There are so many pathogens in Port Jeff Harbor and elsewhere,” he said. “Some of them are from humans, but a lot of them are from water fowl. DEC does checks for pathogens and uses E. coli as a marker.” However, acknowledging the limitations of these tests, he added, “They don’t separate human E. coli from avian E. coli. Obviously some of the pathogens are coming from human waste, but a lot of it could be coming from birds.”

The town grows approximately 1.5 million oysters and another 1.5 million clams every year that it puts out into various harbors and bays. The addition of these shellfish populations aids the local fishing industry as well as recreational shellfishing. 

The oyster and clam populations serve as “filter feeders,” flushing harmful contaminants from the waters and spitting out filtered water. These shellfish have a beneficial impact on water quality, according to Duckworth. 

The town’s planting activities also attempt to restore the natural populations that once flourished along the Island coastline. “What we see today is only a fragment of what used to occur around Long Island in the bays and harbors,” Duckworth said, adding, “Through disease and through overfishing, in some areas the natural populations are 1% of what they used to be. We put out oysters and clams to hopefully kickstart the next generation.”

“About 100,000 oysters are removing about 50% of the microalgae, which is a fantastic result.”

— Alan Duckworth

With funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund, the town has been able to track the effects of these shellfish populations on the quality of its surface waters. Measuring water quality with an instrument called a sonde, researchers performed two experiments — one within an area of 100,000 oysters in Port Jeff Harbor and another approximately 60 feet away from the oysters, which served as the control. Measuring the removal of microalgae by the oysters, the researchers found “about 100,000 oysters are removing about 50% of the microalgae, which is a fantastic result,” Duckworth said. 

In a separate test for turbidity, a measure of the number of sediments floating around in the water, he said, “They also remove about 50% of these sediments, which improves water clarity. That’s really important for photosynthetic organisms and things that require sunlight.” Duckworth added, “If you have 10 feet of dirty water, all of the things that live on the bottom and require sunlight can’t photosynthesize. When you clean that water, it’s really important for the animals and plants that live there.”

A final experiment tested whether these plantings have any effect on restoring the natural populations of shellfish in the harbor. The researchers put out bags of empty oysters shells and found that baby oysters began to move into those shells, an indicator that the planted oysters are adapting to their new environment.

“The oysters that we put out are now adults, they’re now producing larvae, and those larvae are actually finding places to settle, in this case the oyster shells,” Hoffman said. “They‘re actually reseeding Port Jeff Harbor.”

Reflecting upon these studies, Hoffman concluded that the work being done is having a positive effect on water quality and points to an optimistic future of the harbor. “This is a good story,” he said. “We’re showing that, yes, the oysters that we put out are cleaning the water, but they’re also helping to reseed and restock the natural populations that we all want to bring back.”

Oysters Rockefeller. Photo by Brittany Steiner/Unsplash

By Barbara Beltrami

There are some of you out there who know how I feel about oysters. I’m crazy about them, so much so that one of the items on my bucket list is to learn how to open them.  And so serious am I about this challenge that I’ve ordered the appropriate utensils from Amazon and am now the proud owner of an oyster knife and gloves. 

And there are some of you out there who also know how accident prone I am so what remains now is meeting not so much the challenge of opening the oysters but doing so without impaling myself on the oyster knife! 

My favorite oyster preparation is no preparation … just opening them and slurping them raw from the shell with maybe a squeeze of lemon and/or a raspberry mignonette. In second place are fried oysters, preferably in a traditional po’boy sandwich. And then, let’s not forget Oysters Rockefeller, that elegant appetizer on a bed of spinach, doused with Pernod and baked on a bed of rock salt.

Raspberry Vinegar Mignonette

YIELD: Makes about 1/3 to 1/2 cup


1/4 cup white or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

1/2 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper

Pinch of salt


In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Cover and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Serve with freshly opened chilled oysters on the half shell and French bread with unsalted butter.

Fried Oyster Po’ Boy

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


3 eggs

1 quart shucked oysters, drained

2 1/2 – 3 cups cornmeal

1/4 cup flour

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 /2 teaspoon cayenne

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

1 long baguette, cut cross-wise into 4 pieces, then sliced horizontally

1/2 cup mayonnaise or remoulade sauce

1 1/2 cups shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce

2 tomatoes, thinly sliced 

12 dill pickle slices


In a medium bowl, beat eggs, add oysters, stir to coat and let sit 10 minutes. In a gallon size resealable plastic bag, combine cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper and cayenne. With a fork, remove oysters, one at a time, from bag. Let excess egg drip off, then shake and toss, again, one at a time, in cornmeal mixture. 

Pour one inch of oil or more into a deep skillet; heat over medium-high setting till a pinch of flour mixture sizzles; place oysters, with spaces in between, in oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes. (You may have to fry them in two batches); drain on paper towels. Spread top halves of bread with mayonnaise or sauce; on bottom halves arrange lettuce, tomatoes and pickles, then oysters; add sandwich top. Serve with fries or potato chips.

Oysters Rockefeller

YIELD: Makes 8 appetizer servings


4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup unflavored bread crumbs

1 shallot, minced

2 scallions, thinly sliced

2 cups fresh spinach, washed and drained

1/4 cup Pernod

Salt and pepper to taste

Generous dash hot red pepper sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

24 oysters on the half shell

Rock salt

Lemon wedges

Fennel leaves


Preheat oven to 450 F. In a small-medium saucepan melt butter, add garlic and cook over medium heat just long enough to infuse butter, 2 minutes or less. In a small bowl, place bread crumbs and half the garlic butter; toss and set aside. To the remaining garlic butter in the skillet, add shallot, scallions and spinach and cook just until spinach wilts, about 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze pan with Pernod, add salt and pepper and hot red pepper sauce, then continue cooking over medium heat until liquid evaporates, about 2 to 3 minutes.  

Add oil and parsley to bread crumbs, season again with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. Put one teaspoonful of spinach mixture on top of each oyster, then top with a teaspoonful of the bread crumb mixture. Generously sprinkle a large baking pan with rock salt; arrange oysters in the salt crystals to keep them from tilting; bake until golden, about 10 to15 minutes. Remove from oven, top with fennel leaves and serve with lemon wedges and chilled champagne.

Barry Udelson from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County shows those in attendance oysters. Photo by Kimberly Brown

After a great amount of hard work and dedication, Village of Northport trustee Dave Weber Jr. was happy to announce Wednesday, July 28, that the latest stage of the aquaculture program between Northport Village, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and Town of Huntington Maritime Services is officially operating.

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci speaks at the July 28 press conference. Photo by Kimberly Brown

The entities have established Floating Upweller System, also known as FLUPSY, floats which will become essential to preserving the oyster population as well as cleaning waterways in Northport Harbor.

“About 30 community members set this plan in motion to raise funds and support this FLUPSY program,” Weber said, “What’s better than to start an aquaculture program right here in our own backyard to support, safeguard and help maintain a healthy marine environment?”

There are numerous benefits to having the FLUPSY dock in Northport Harbor because it allows a large number of oysters to grow while simultaneously protecting them from natural predators.

“The idea behind this is that we’re constantly providing a heavy flow of water passing over the shellfish,” said Barry Udelson from CCE of Suffolk County. “If you’re pumping water through them, they’re constantly getting a much healthier diet. Think about giving them heavy protein shakes, they’ll grow much faster than if they were naturally sitting on the bay bottom.”

The dock holds 100,000 baby oysters that are 4 to 10 millimeters in size. In a few months, the oysters will grow to approximately 40 mm.

Once the oysters are mature enough to survive out in open waters, Huntington Maritime Services and CCE of Suffolk County will place them in the bay. The oysters will continue to grow until they are big enough to be harvested by baymen.

“This is the first year, but as we continue to grow we may be able to expand these floats to more than 100,000 oysters,” Udelson said. “As more communities like yours start to appreciate this, we can find ways to continue to expand to other parts of Long Island and improve everyone’s water quality.”

The oysters will be able to filter out the nitrogen, caused by rain runoff, fertilizers and cesspools and introduce oxygen into the water. The process will serve as an efficient way to clean out the waterways and create safer habitats for other species.

The FLUPSY program will also have an educational component to it and help teach students about shellfish aquaculture. Currently, the program has taken on two Northport High School interns who will work with CCE of Suffolk County..

“This is a great day because this is really how government should work together,” said Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “We want to continue these great efforts and work along with the village and Cornell Cooperative Extension to help restore our water quality.”

Juvenile clams maturing in Brookhaven’s hatchery. File photo by Alex Petroski

Long Island has become synonymous with shellfish farming, though in recent years it has become increasingly difficult for farmers to sell and market their products. 

With that in mind, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) launched a pilot program March 11 designed to remove the red tape to assist local oyster farmers by allowing vendors to expand their current retail opportunities. 

“Shellfish farming has been an important part of Long Island’s heritage for decades, and plays an important role in cleaning our waterways and promoting economic activity,” Bellone said. 

He will be introducing legislation to implement an annual temporary event permit for vendors of shellfish grown or harvested in Long Island waters. The permit will not include fees for the first two years. 

“The introduction of this legislation will go a long way in removing barriers that have made it difficult for our farmers to sell and market their locally sourced products,” the county executive said. 

Under current regulations, shellfish farmers must apply for a vendors temporary food service permit with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services before they can market and sell their products. The permits cost $95 and are valid only for a single event at a fixed location, with a 14-day limit. A permit’s time restriction makes it hard for shellfish farmers to participate in weekly and monthly events such as farmers markets and fairs. As a result, it limits a shellfish farmer’s ability to do business. 

“The introduction of this legislation will go a long way in removing barriers that have made it difficult for our farmers to sell and market their locally sourced products.”

— Steve Bellone

“The county’s aquaculture industry is vital not only to our Island’s history but to our economy as well,” said county Legislator Bill Lindsay (D-Bohemia), chairman of the Suffolk County Legislature Economic Development Committee. “This industry generates millions of dollars in revenue, supports our local restaurants and provides our residents with world-class locally grown products.”

In addition to improving the shellfish industry, the county will continue efforts to improve water quality and restore marine ecosystems.  

Past efforts include the 2010 aquaculture lease program. That program secured marine access for shellfish cultivation in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay to accommodate growth, while considering the needs of existing shellfish agriculture businesses. 

According to the county’s Department of Economic Development and Planning, the program’s total economic output from 2012 to 2017 was estimated at $13 million.

“Long Island’s farmers and aquaculture producers are grateful for this economic incentive proposal put forth by County Executive Bellone to help us market and sell our products direct to consumers,” said Rob Carpenter, administrative director of Long Island Farm Bureau. “It will keep jobs, increase sales tax revenue and continue all the associated environmental benefits the industry does for Long Island residents and our waters.”  

According to the Long Island Oyster Growers Association, local oysters filter approximately 900 million gallons of water every single day. Oysters improve waterways by eating algae, filtering out particulates and excess nutrients as well as creating habitats for other organisms.

Juvenile clams maturing in Brookhaven’s hatchery. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Restoring Long Island’s coastal waters as a haven for shellfish to thrive has been a multidecade battle for the Town of Brookhaven. This year, it has added some artillery to the fight in the form of a public-private-nonprofit partnership born in the spirit of sustainability and recycling.

In the 1800s, Long Island was considered the oyster capital of the world, according to Maureen Dunn, water quality scientist at Seatuck Environmental Association, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Long Island’s wildlife and environment.

“So, to think that there’s virtually no wild oysters in the South Shore is incredible, but it’s really something that we can fix,” Dunn said Sept. 7 at Brookhaven’s shellfish hatchery located on the shores of Mount Sinai Harbor.

For more than 30 years, Brookhaven has been buying juvenile clams and oysters when they are just a millimeter in size, partially maturing them at the town’s hatchery and strategically returning them to North and South Shore waters in an effort to boost the population. Tom Carrano, the town’s assistant waterways management supervisor who has overseen this process since taking the position in the early ’80s, is set to retire imminently.

“Realistically, clams and oysters are the only natural resource the town actually owns because we own the bay bottom,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure that there is sufficient quantities of these animals.”

To aid in fulfilling that responsibility, beginning this year the town has partnered with Seatuck and so far five restaurants to spearhead a program called Half Shells for Habitat. The program entails the restaurants setting aside shells from eaten clams and oysters; collecting them; delivering them to the town’s composting facility in Manorville where they are aged in the sun for six months to a year to ensure viruses and bacteria are not inhabiting the discarded shells; bringing the shells to the hatchery to allow the tiny shellfish to adhere to the larger shells, building what essentially amount to shellfish reefs; and then returning them to the water in the hopes of growing new shellfish. 

The town has the capability to grow more than 3 million shellfish in its hatchery per year, and officials believe the use of mature shells will give them a better chance at maturation and warding off predators. Creating the shellfish reefs has several other benefits. The juvenile shellfish require a hard bottom to survive, which the reefs can provide. They also can work as erosion control if placed properly, can counteract the effects of water acidification spurred by climate change and also help to filter algae from the water.

“As CO2 levels in the atmosphere go up, ocean and coastal acidification become more of a concern,” said Anthony Graves, Brookhaven’s chief environmental analyst. 

He said taking the shells out of the town’s solid waste stream and using them to improve water quality by staving off erosion and stimulating shellfish growth is a “win-win-win” for the environment.

“It’s tremendous how far we’ve come,” Carrano said, reflecting on the evolution of the operation of shellfish seeding in the town from when he started in his role. “When I started we were growing 100,000 clams. Now we’re growing a million and a half, close to 2 million clams this year and 2 million oysters. The town has been very generous and forthcoming in pushing this program and allowing it to move forward.”

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he would like to see New York adopt a similar law to the state of Maryland’s, which prohibits discarding shells in landfills.

“We’ve made a major commitment to restocking our bays, our harbor ways, our Sound, doing what we can do to restore the balance of nature,” he said. “It’s a cumulative battle, but it’s a battle that we’ve joined, it’s a battle that we intend to continue to fight because we think it’s important not only for the health of the bay, but also to ensure that the bay or harbor can support clams and oysters.”

Currently five restaurants have signed on to participate in the program — Catch Oyster Bar in Patchogue, Prime in Huntington, H2O Seafood & Sushi in East Islip and Tellers: An American Chophouse in Islip — though the town is looking for more. Prior to placing shellfish reefs back in the water, Graves said the town will need permission in the form of a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.

The world is not your oyster.

Brookhaven Town and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation thwarted offenders on Friday who they said, in two unrelated incidents on June 30 and July 3, illegally harvested oysters from the Long Island Sound near Flax Pond in Old Field and Mount Sinai Harbor respectively. Between the two incidents nearly 2,000 oysters were seized and returned to their habitats.

On June 30 Brookhaven Harbormaster stationed in Port Jefferson Harbor received a tip that oysters smaller in size than three inches — which is below the allowable size for harvest — were being taken from the Sound. Following an inspection by DEC officials, violations were issued to the oystermen and the animals were returned to the water.

DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.
DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.

“I applaud the actions of our Harbormasters and the DEC,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), whose district includes Port Jefferson Harbor said in a statement Friday. “Shellfish are vital to our harbor, providing a natural means of removing harmful nitrogen from our waters. I urge residents to both respect harvesting laws and to get involved in our local mariculture programs that help cultivate the shellfish populations in our harbors and bays.”

On July 3 four people harvested oysters from illegal areas of Mount Sinai Harbor, according to the town. Brookhaven Town Bay constables witnessed the violation, seized the oysters and returned them to the harbor.

Mount Sinai Harbor falls within Councilwoman Jane Bonner’s (C-Rocky Point) district.

“It is very disappointing when people break the law without any concern for its effect on the environment,” Bonner said in a statement. “For many years, shellfish were over harvested and we are now working hard to increase their population. I urge anyone who knows of illegal shell fishing to report it to the Town or DEC.”

The statement from the town stressed the importance of protecting shellfish in Long Island waters.

“Increasing the number of oysters and other shellfish in our waterways helps to reduce the abundance of algae that can lead to fish kills and diminished oxygen concentration and thus improve water quality,” town officials said. “Oysters feed on floating microscopic algae by filtering them out of the overlying water. One adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.”