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NY - Oyster Farmers in Great South Bay Harvesting Crops While Saving the Waters

Environmental programs using shellfish to help restore the waterways of Long Island.

Oysters are like little motors, each one filtering 50 gallons of water every day, which makes them a great addition to the toolbox that environmentalists use to remediate our harbors and bays. Unfortunately, due to suburban sprawl, the bays of the South Shore had become polluted to the point where surviving shellfish were filtering only 1 percent of the water, compared to 1976 when they filtered up to 40 percent.

The problem was that the bay wasn’t able to sustain shellfish the way it used to. An unlikely assist from mother nature helped change that.

Sandy creates an opportunity

Cutting through Fire Island barrier island, directly south of the hamlet of Bellport, a breach that opened up during Hurricane Sandy still allows a tidal flush of ocean water into Great South Bay.

This inlet, according to some environmentalists, is a real game changer. The breech created an opportunity. One that many environmental organizations were quick to take advantage of. The bays became healthier almost overnight.

A report by the National Park Service reveals that since the breach opened, salinity increased and Summer water temperature is a few degrees cooler. They also noted an increase in water clarity and frequency of brown tides - harmful algae blooms -  has decreased in eastern Great South Bay.

Still a long way to go

The bay is not near being cured of what’s ailing it, but the ecosystem is now such that it is conducive to allow shellfish to prosper and many organizations jumped at the chance to take advantage of it.

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