Grant to Boost Hatchery

The State Department of Environmental Conservation has announced $1.6 million in grants to East Hampton, Brookhaven, Islip, and Hempstead to expand and upgrade public shellfish hatcheries. The grants, announced on June 20, support Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Long Island Shellfish Restoration initiative. 

Barley Dunne, director of the town’s shellfish hatchery, said that East Hampton’s share of the grant is $400,000. “The majority of the budget will go toward labor, including a full-timer and seasonal help,” he said in an email. The remainder, he said, will be allocated to equipment including a solar-powered, paddlewheel-driven floating upweller system, known as a FLUPSY; a continuous-flow algae culture system; pumps and tanks at the hatchery’s nursery, including an oyster spat-on-shell setting tank, a utility trailer, and a 17-foot skiff. 

Municipal grant recipients are obligated to supply a minimum of 15 percent of the yield associated with the hatchery expansion to one or more of five shellfish sanctuaries to be established on Long Island from 2020 to 2024.

The objective, Mr. Dunne said, “is to expand our production in order to supply the state with shellfish for their sanctuary project,” as outlined in the June 20 announcement. The East Hampton hatchery, he said, will provide 2 million clams and 1.2 million oysters in the form of spat-on-shell next year, and continue to provide at least 15 percent of the yield associated with its expansion through 2024.

The restoration of hard clams to Long Island’s coastal waters is expected to benefit the water quality of the area. As filter feeders, hard clams obtain their food by filtering microscopic organisms, mostly microalgae, from the water column. If concentrated heavily enough, adult hard clams have demonstrated the ability to filter brown tide algae. The restoration effort offers the potential, as water quality improves, to provide a more stable environment for additional clam growth, and by extension, the growth of the local shellfish economy.