Coalition To Save Hempstead Harbor Launches Harborwide Community Oyster Gardening Program

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    The Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor (CSHH) has launched the second season of its community oyster gardening program, now expanded to include a fourth site on the west shore of the harbor.

    Community oyster gardening is a conservation education program that invites community members to directly participate in restoring their local waters by raising oysters in cages.

    On Tuesday, July 18, approximately 60,000 oysters in the form of spat on shell were delivered to Town of Oyster Bay’s Tappen Marina from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s shellfish hatchery in Southold. The oysters were distributed to cages in Tappen Marina, as well as at the Hempstead Harbour Club, Sea Cliff Yacht Club, and the newest site at North Hempstead Beach Park.

    This program for Hempstead Harbor offers a hands-on opportunity for local residents to learn how oysters can improve habitat and water quality. CSHH’s Martha Braun, project manager for the program, explained that “The outlook for this year is very exciting because we know that the oysters we released last year are thriving in designated conservation management areas. We’re expanding this program to reestablish an invaluable ecological resource in Hempstead Harbor and community members continue to step up to be directly involved in this work.”

    The CSHH has expanded the program in 2023 to raise double the number of oysters and to include the addition of a fourth site at North Hempstead Beach Park. The CSHH community oyster gardening program is now harbor wide. “I could not be more excited for this oyster gardening initiative in Hempstead Harbor,” said Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman,
    Marianne Dalimonte. “The presence and maintenance of a flourishing oyster population will contribute to the reestablishment of marine habitats, the improvement of water quality, and ultimately the enhancement of a destination cherished by residents across the greater North Hempstead community.”

    Oysters feed by pumping water through their bodies, filtering phytoplankton, bacteria, and other small particles, improving the surrounding water quality. Oysters also grow in clusters to form reefs, which provide habitat and protection for many other species, helping to support marine biodiversity.

    Volunteers at each location work in teams throughout the summer to keep the cages clean and track the oysters’ growth until they are mature enough to be released into the water. Once released, the oysters grown through this program will be able to reproduce in a protected area and continue to increase their population.

    —Submitted by Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor