Grants to Expand and Upgrade Long Island Public Hatcheries Support Governor Cuomo's Shellfish Restoration Efforts
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced $1.6 million in grants to four Long Island municipalities to expand and upgrade public shellfish hatcheries. Grants were awarded to the towns of Brookhaven, East Hampton, Islip, and Hempstead, and support Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's Long Island Shellfish Restoration initiative. The first public meeting of the New York Shellfish Restoration Council was held on Monday, June 18.
State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Basil Seggos said, "Governor Cuomo is continuing to invest in New York's natural assets to support our coastal communities and the ecosystems that they rely on. The Public Hatchery Expansion Grants and New York's Shellfish Restoration Council will help reestablish these areas as prime coastal habitat and support much-needed upgrades to our shellfish hatcheries. These grants play a critical role in New York's $10.4 million shellfish restoration effort to improve water quality and bolster Long Island's coastal communities."
Over the last 40 years, Long Island's Great South Bay clam population has significantly declined primarily due to overharvesting in the 1970s and early 1980s. Efforts to restore this important resource have been unsuccessful due to poor survival of juvenile clams and reproductive failures of adult clams as a result of harmful algal blooms known as "brown tides." Brown tides are exacerbated by elevated levels of nitrogen in the water, insufficient densities of adult clams, diseases, and predators.
In the Great South Bay alone, which once produced more than half the clams eaten in the United States, clam harvest has fallen by 93 percent over the past quarter-century. The absence of clams, which are natural filterers, has had a multiplier effect, impairing the area's ability to absorb excess nitrogen, thereby creating the conditions for more intense algae blooms.
Supported by Governor Cuomo's record State Environmental Protection Funding (EPF), the Public Hatchery Expansion Grants are providing four municipalities approximately $400,000 each to improve existing hatcheries. Funded projects range from new or expanded water intake systems, algal culture systems, larval culture systems, broodstock conditioning, spawning and holding systems, setting tanks and systems, nursery (juvenile seed) culture equipment and systems, and field grow-out systems for juvenile (seed) shellfish that are expected to yield approximately 12 million hard clam seed and 3 million oysters (spat-on-shell) by 2019.
Hard clam seed will be supplied to one of five sanctuary sites that will be established on Long Island this fall (Bellport Bay, town of Brookhaven; Shinnecock Bay, town of Southampton; Huntington Harbor, town of Huntington; Hempstead Bay, town of Hempstead; and South Oyster Bay, town of Oyster Bay).
The New York Shellfish Restoration Council is co-chaired by SUNY Stony Brook, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Billion Oyster Project to provide recommendations on coordination, management, and monitoring of shellfish restoration efforts, identify future restoration initiatives, and coordinate training and education programs throughout the New York Marine and Coastal District.
The 2017-18 State Budget includes $300 million for the EPF, sustaining the increase from last year that elevated EPF funding to the highest level ever. The funding supports state land stewardship, agriculture programs, invasive species prevention and eradication, water quality improvement, municipal recycling and an aggressive environmental justice agenda. Further, this funding level will establish new programs to help communities adapt to climate change through resiliency planning and capital projects, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions outside of the power sector.
Municipal grant awardees will be obligated to supply a minimum of 15 percent of the yield associated with the hatchery expansion to one or more of the five shellfish sanctuaries to be established on Long Island from 2020-2024. The estimated total yield of shellfish to be produced through the hatchery improvements by the four towns is approximately 44 million, which includes 26 million hard clams and 18 million oysters.
The restoration of hard clams to Long Island's coastal waters is expected to directly benefit the water quality of the area. As filter feeders, hard clams obtain their food by filtering out microscopic organisms, mostly microalgae, from the water column. If concentrated heavily enough, adult hard clams have demonstrated the ability to filter brown tide algae. Hard clam restoration 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.
For more information on New York's Shellfish Restoration Council visit DEC's website.