On Wednesday, August 14, Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilman Dan Panico joined officials from Moriches Bay Project, Cornell Cooperative Extension and Half Shells for Habitat to announce the completion of the Town’s first oyster bar – otherwise known as an oyster reef – in Harts Cove at the end of Moriches Island Road in East Moriches. Pictured left to right are Town of Brookhaven Chief Environmental Analyst Anthony Graves; Moriches Bay Project co-founder Laura Frabizio; Moriches Bay Project Manager Anthony Sferrazza; Councilman Dan Panico; Supervisor Ed Romaine; Cornell Cooperative Extension Aquaculture Specialist Greg Rivara; Seatuck Water Quality Scientist Maureen Dunne and Moriches Bay Project Director John Jeanes.
The oyster bar is made of aged shells supplied by Half Shells for Habitat – a nonprofit organization that collects oyster shells from Long Island restaurants – as well as live oysters. Installed on the bay bottom, the bar measures 530 square feet, providing a natural habitat for sea life such as mussels, crabs and flounder. In addition, the oysters themselves act as natural filters, filtering as much as 50 gallons of water a day, per oyster. The oyster bar is a pilot project that will be monitored by the Moriches Bay Project and Cornell Cooperative Extension for a period of five years for oyster growth and survival, as well as the presence of other animals and plants living on the manmade reef as compared to the nearby sandy bottom, explained Greg Rivara of Cornell Cooperative Extension. “Oyster reefs are important because they are like English muffins – lots of nooks and crannies for things to grow and feed,” said Rivara.
Aram Terchunian, a coastal geologist and co-founder of the Moriches Bay Project, further explained that manmade oyster reefs are new to Long Island but are extremely beneficial because they mimic the natural reefs that supported a once highly sought-after market for Long Island Oysters nationwide, and even worldwide. Anthony Graves of the Town’s Divisiont of Environmental Protection, echoed Terchunian, noting that it had been close to 100 years since the area even had an oyster reef.
While other oyster reefs have been installed in the Towns of Riverhead and Southampton, this reef marks the first for Brookhaven, but continues the Town’s strong commitment to cleaning its local waterways. The Town has already supported the Moriches Bay Project by donating hundreds of thousands of oysters that have been used in oyster farms located throughout Moriches Bay. In addition, the Town provided oysters and the location for the organization’s first solar power Floating Upweller System which was recently installed at Maple Avenue Dock, also in East Moriches. The Town will provide as many as 70,000 oysters for the reef.
Supervisor Ed Romaine said, “We need to reverse the damage done to our waterways by years of over-harvesting, neglect and pollutants. Working with the Moriches Bay Project and Cornell Cooperative Extension, we have established a partnership with a natural plan to filter the water with the oyster bar reefs. I am committed to protecting the environment and will continue to do whatever is needed to preserve it for years to come.”
“Our environment and economy are tied together here on Long Island, and clean water is of paramount importance” said Councilman Panico. “Aside from putting hundreds of thousands of oysters in our bays with our partners, where each mature oyster filters up to 50 gallons of water a day, we plan to implement these oyster reefs throughout our local bays.”
Moriches Bay Co-founder Laura Fabrizio said that with the addition of the oyster reef, 750,000 oysters will have been put into Moriches Bay by year’s end; the group’s goal is one million.