Town approves second batch of 1 million oysters for Manhasset Bay

Town approves second batch of 1 million oysters for Manhasset Bay
A collection of young oysters. (Photo courtesy of Martha Braun)

After a successful pilot program in 2022, another batch of 1 million oysters will call Manhasset Bay home later this year.

The North Hempstead Town Board approved a resolution for the second restoration project during the June 6 meeting, continuing a program that was a big success last year, Council Member Mariann Dalimonte said.

“After year one, the oysters are growing and that’s the most important thing,” Dalimonte said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “If we did not see them growing or didn’t see them thriving, we would not have put in another million.”

After placing the first batch in three locations, which are kept secret to avoid tampering, the second batch will all be placed in only one of the three. Dalimonte said all locations are growing but one in particular is thriving more than the other two. 

In particular, these oysters will be spat. These are oyster larvae that have attached themselves to a surface, such as other oyster shells, which grow into dense clusters known as oyster reefs or beds.

Besides supplying food, oysters provide substantial benefits through purifying water by filter feeding. A single adult oyster may filter up to 50 gallons of water every day.

Collaborating with the town to administer the project is the Suffolk County Cornell Cooperative Extension, which worked with the town on the first batch last year. The group has extensive experience in similar projects across Long Island. 

As the bay has faced challenges, so has its oyster population. While the precise cause is unknown, Lorne Brousseau, associate marine program director for the Cornell Cooperative, previously said he believes it could be because of several factors.

“You’ve probably heard of algal blooms and stuff like that,” Brousseau told Blank Slate Media last year. “So some of those blooms can really harm the oysters. It’s over many years that the population has gone way down to what it historically was.”

As the oysters grow, it could take years to generate conclusive results. For now, the oysters’ survival rate will be monitored throughout the year ahead of the installation of the second batch, which Dalimonte said could be this August. 

Getting the initial batch of oysters into the bay was a major focus of Dalimonte, a fourth-generation Port Washington resident that was elected to office in 2020. 

“Manhasset Bay is a constituent and it needs a voice,” said Dalimonte, who’s also the town board’s liaison for the waterfront advisory committee, which advises the board on issues relating to Manhasset Bay and Hempstead Harbor. “I wanted to make it better than it was when I got elected.”

Dalimonte added that continued oyster programs have been a dream come true. 

“I can cry talking about it because it’s something I worked hard on and kept getting pushback,” Dalimonte said. “No one gave me a good enough reason on why we can’t have oysters in Manhasset Bay. It took a very long time, but it was worth it.”

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