South Fork Sea Farmers Benefit
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About South Fork Sea Farmers
South Fork Sea Farmers has raised awareness and funds to support and maintain oyster growing projects across the east end. We are now in four locations. Three Mile Harbor, Hog Creek, Napeague and Acabonac Harbors and looking to expand.
— Barley Dunne, East Hampton Shellfish Hatchery
Background on the East Hampton Shellfish Hatchery
Since the 1980’s, East Coast waters have experienced devastating shellfish losses due to overfishing and damaging algae blooms.
In 2016 a corps of eco-conscious South Fork residents collaborated to expand shellfish education and enhancement programs (EHSEED) in East Hampton (EH) town waters by forming an oyster-growing community cooperative, or oyster gardening program. By linking with the successful EH Town Shellfish Hatchery, the EHSEED program created opportunities for local citizens to learn about and help the threatened ecosystem that is part of the vital Peconic Estuary system, resulting in educated and dedicated stewards of the environment.
The Town of East Hampton opened the Shellfish Hatchery in the 1980’s in order to replenish shellfish stocks. In 2006, the EH Shellfish Hatchery began conducting a series of shellfish culture workshops to meet interest and demand for shellfish education. Participants of the workshops, including visitors as well as students and members of local community organizations, toured the facility as part of a hands-on five part educational program. We believed that an oyster gardening program was the next step in the evolution of public shellfish education and enhancement.
Similar programs have been offered in other areas of eastern Long Island. On the North Fork, Suffolk Projects in Aquaculture Training (SPAT), part of Cornell Cooperative Extension, has operated successfully since 2002 and now has over 100 members. The Shinnecock Restoration Project (ShiRP) in Southampton Town is partnering with Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) to reseed the bay as part of their ongoing water quality research. In May, 2015 a Save the Bay shellfish restoration project launched in Moriches Bay when 50,000 oysters were seeded.
We believed these types of efforts, as well as the education that accompanies it; needed to expand as the quality of our waters is an ongoing concern.
An Ongoing Community Effort:
The start-up and growth phases are financed by a combination of individual and family memberships in the project. The EH Town Shellfish Hatchery staff implements the educational program and provides training. Lectures and workshop offerings take place at the Shellfish Hatchery’s facilities in Montauk and Springs. The South Fork Natural History Museum(SOFO) provides a meeting venue and enhances awareness and membership in the program by disseminating information to its membership. Veterinarians International, a non-profit organization committed to enhancing the health of humans, animals and the environment, promotes the project to its affiliates and local residents. South Fork Sea Farmers helps facilitate further education programs and handles fund-raising.