The Peconic Bay Scallop, whose adult population has been wiped out in East End waters each of the past two seasons, is getting a boost this year from Southampton Town, which in mid-July began to establish a bay scallop nursery at its Tiana Bayside community aquaculture facility on Dune Road in Hampton Bays.
The project, in cooperation with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Marine Program, which runs the Tiana Bayside facility for the town, is being funded by a $579,528 grant through the town’s Community Preservation Fund, which can use up to 20 percent of its revenue for water quality initiatives.
Southampton Town and Cornell Cooperative Extension officials gathered July 19 for a ceremonial “bay scallop toss” to launch the project.
“The bay scallop portion of this CPF-funded effort will create the economic activity of bay scallop harvests in a way that improves water quality, as the scallops filter excess algae from the water,” said CCE Marine Program Natural Resource Specialist and long-time Bay Scallop Restoration Program leader Chris Smith. “As importantly, it strengthens people’s connection to our bays and creeks, our heritage.”
Juvenile scallops will be grown in floating cages in a nursery at the Tiana Bayside facility, after which they are slated to be seeded at several locations throughout Southampton Town waters in the hopes that they spawn and contribute to the restoration of the wild scallop population.
The Tiana Bayside educational facility, which is currently home to a community oyster garden and the location of aquaculture education classes led by Cornell Cooperative Extension educators, was spearheaded by Southampton Town Councilman John Bouvier.
“I look forward to growing our common interests in restoring our shellfish populations by direct seeding, aquaculture and other means,” said Mr. Bouvier. “I am very proud to be a part of establishing this facility and continuing to support the impressive skills and dedication of CCE staff.”
The project is also designed to restore eelgrass beds, a prime habitat for bay scallops, in a five-acre sanctuary site designated just off of the Tiana Bayside facility by the Southampton Town Trustees. At that site, researchers expect to plant eelgrass plants and seeds to determine the best methods for restoring the area’s historic eelgrass beds.
Tiana Bayside is also expanding its existing coastal plant nursery as part of the project, which will enable more plants to be grown for use in coastal resiliency and habitat restoration projects. The town is seeking volunteers who’d like to get involved in the project, which includes a demonstration garden and informational signage.
“Creating public awareness and involvement opportunities is integral to the long-term success of these restoration and water quality improvement efforts,” said CCE Marine Program Outreach Manager Kimberly Barbour. “We are so excited to present unique, hands-on stewardship opportunities to the community at Tiana Bayside Facility.”
Programs in the works include monthly Back to the Bays Stewardship Sessions and ArtSEA Workshops, focused on the variety of species and habitats this project aims to restore and protect. Activities will include shellfish seeding excursions, preparing eelgrass planting units and art + science integrative programming.
“This program helps improve our water quality while supporting our local economy and celebrating our marine heritage, making it a winning situation all around,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.