Bellport Bay is One of Five Sanctuaries in State's $10.4 Million Effort to Restore Native Shellfish to Improve Long Island's Coastal Waters and Strengthen Resiliency
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a significant milestone in the planned stocking of millions of native shellfish that are helping to restore critical marine environments, improve water quality, support the local fishing industry and build stronger coastlines. Half of the approximately 1.6 million adult clams planned for the new Bellport Bay shellfish sanctuary have been stocked, and additional progress is being made in implementing the Governor's $10.4 million shellfish restoration initiative that is benefitting Long Island's coastal communities. The Long Island Shellfish Restoration Project was announced in 2017.
"This planet's environment is in real trouble. We're seeing it all across the state, all across the country and all across the globe: more flooding, more fires, more extremes in weather," Governor Cuomo said. "Some people turn a blind eye, but I believe you will never solve a problem you refuse to acknowledge. The harsh reality is climate change is real and it's here, and this state is doing more than any other state in the nation to address climate change. Mother Nature had the best water filtration system, clams and oysters, but we wiped them out. We are now restoring that natural water filtration system, but we are doing it to a grander scale than ever before and it is going to make a difference."
The Governor's Long Island Shellfish Restoration Project (LISRP) is being led by the State Department of Environmental Conservation in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Stony Brook University, municipalities and volunteer organizations. This $10.4 million initiative will establish five shellfish sanctuary sites stocked with juvenile and adult shellfish over several years to meet the target densities necessary to support maximum water quality benefits and shellfish enhancement.
The Bellport Bay shellfish sanctuary is one of five shellfish sanctuaries planned as part of the LISRP to improve water quality, mitigate harmful algal blooms, restore shellfish populations and increase biodiversity in coastal waters. Located on the south shore of Long Island in the town of Brookhaven, the sanctuary is comprised of approximately 141 acres of Bellport Bay for planting of juvenile and adult shellfish.
Mother Nature had the best water filtration system, clams and oysters, but we wiped them out. We are now restoring that natural water filtration system, but we are doing it to a grander scale than ever before and it is going to make a difference.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "New York State is making significant progress in realizing the water quality, habitat protection, coastal resiliency, and fishing industry benefits of Governor Cuomo's sanctuary initiative here at Bellport Bay. We look forward to working with our partners to stock millions more shellfish and establish four additional sanctuaries on Long Island."
Senator Todd Kaminsky, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "This continued investment in cutting-edge research for preserving and protecting our oceans for future generations is incredibly important. I applaud the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Governor's Office for their sustained committed to cleaning Long Island's waters."
Senator Monica Martinez said, "As we grapple with the devastating ramifications of climate change locally and globally, it is imperative that we address the issue head on before it is too late. With Long Island being a coastal region, it is of particular importance that we protect our shores and our water quality. Today we gently place 773,201 adult clams into the bay with the hope they will help mitigate harmful chemicals in our waters; maintaining Long Island's precious coastline and water quality is of utmost importance."
Assembly Member Joseph DeStefano said, "Long Island and its beautiful marine environment is a treasure of New York. It is vital to its future that we take steps to protect and preserve the ecosystem of the area, and the natural resources it provides. With the help of Governor Cuomo, New York State, and some sea critters, proactive action is being taken, and we thank them greatly for those efforts."
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, "It is critical that we preserve Long Island's water quality and the resiliency of our marine habitat - and thanks to Governor Cuomo's leadership, we're doing just that. We will continue our commitment to protecting both marine environments and the fishing jobs that depend on them."
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said, "The Town of Brookhaven has been very proactive with our oyster and clam restoration program and I welcome the state's efforts to expand it further. This is a very important environmental project that will repopulate the bay with new clams and help keep the water clean. I thank Governor Cuomo for making the health of our waterways a priority of his administration."
Approximately 773,200 clams harvested from certified waters have already been stocked at the sanctuary. Depending on weather conditions, from May through November, shipments of up to 45,000 adult clams are delivered daily to Squassux Landing Marina by Captree Clam, Inc., for planting at the bay. In addition, approximately 62 million juvenile shellfish - 50 million clams and 12 million spat-on-shell oysters - produced by the Suffolk County Cornell Cooperative Extension Shellfish Hatchery will be planted in the Bellport Bay sanctuary.
In addition to Bellport Bay, four other sanctuaries are being developed in Huntington Harbor, Shinnecock Bay, South Oyster Bay and Hempstead Bay. Up to 89 million juvenile shellfish (53 million clams and 36 million spat-on-shell oysters) and more than five million locally harvested adult clams will be stocked in these sanctuaries with a planting design developed to meet the specific targets for each waterbody. DEC is working with Stony Brook University to actively monitor the sanctuaries for five years to determine shellfish survival and enhancement, as well as water quality improvement.
The restoration project provides a unique opportunity to obtain biological and environmental information on shellfish growth, survival and spawning success, and to monitor the effect on water quality, phytoplankton uptake and filtration and nitrogen cycling and removal. The results of the project will guide and support the success of future restoration efforts on Long Island.
LISRP is supporting the expansion or improvements of public shellfish hatcheries in the towns of Brookhaven, East Hampton, Islip and Hempstead and new construction of the Suffolk County CCE Shellfish Hatchery at Cedar Beach, Southold to boost production of this natural resource. The CCE Southold hatchery is currently operational and will be a crucial asset in the production of approximately 151 million juvenile shellfish and stocking efforts planned. The four town shellfish hatcheries will contribute an additional 44 million juvenile shellfish for stocking in the sanctuaries over the next five years.
This initiative is just one of several underway to improve water quality, protect important marine resources and boost local economies. The Governor is investing $3 billion in clean water infrastructure; $800 million to repair and fortify the Bay Park wastewater treatment plant; $354 million to divert Bay Park sewage from the Western Bays to the Cedar Creek outfall; and more than $2 million for the NY Sea Grant program to mitigate Long Island brown tide. He has also signed new laws protecting menhaden, a critically important bait fish; banned off-shore drilling along New York's coastline; and advanced the largest expansion of the State's artificial reef program to develop a stronger, more diverse marine ecosystem and provide shelter for fish and other marine life off New York's shores.