Local Oyster Farms Get National Funding

Several Long Island oyster farms have received grant funding from The Nature Conservancy and the Pew Charitable Trust’s Shellfish Growers Resiliency Fund,  which is designed to develop a more resilient and sustainable U.S. shellfish industry that benefits the ocean and coastal communities.

Peeko Oysters of New Suffolk, Southold Bay Oysters in Southold, the Neguntatogue Project in Lindenhurst and Violet Cove Oysters in Moriches Bay were among the 47 recipients of the awards, totaling $898,000 nationwide.

Peeko Oysters received the award for “Increasing Regional Eastern Oyster Seed Supply via Enhanced Microalgae Production,” Southold Bay Oysters plans to use the funding to reduce lost gear and crop in open water, the Neguntatogue Project will use the funding for its “Build It Back to Inspire Project” and Violet Cove Oysters will use the funding to add sugar kelp to its oyster farm for additional revenue, water quality and storm surge protection 

“In addition to providing an important source of jobs and food, responsibly managed shellfish farms also benefit the environment by filtering water, creating wildlife habitat, and contributing to wild oyster reef restoration,” said Boze Hancock, TNC’s senior marine restoration scientist. “All these things make the shellfish sector a powerful ally in marine conservation.”

 The Fund is a result of a partnership between Builders Initiative, TNC, Pew, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), state management agencies, and shellfish growers’ associations, demonstrating the opportunity for collaboration between shellfish farms and marine conservation.

 “Oyster farmers know what’s needed to restore and protect the waterways that are the cradle for their oysters, and the Fund recognizes and helps advance their innovative ideas,” said Laura Rodriguez, senior program officer at Builders Initiative, which has contributed financially to the Fund since 2021. “We’re proud to support these farmer-led projects and look forward to seeing how they will help build healthier ecosystems and a more resilient oyster industry in the U.S.”

The shellfish industry is facing significant environmental challenges and market bottlenecks that could limit its future growth and, by extension, its capacity to support healthy coastal ecosystems. 

The first phase of the Fund in 2021 distributed a total of $1 million for 36 awards across 16 states, including educational initiatives to promote Indigenous-led hatcheries in Alaska, experimental development of new substrate structures that stimulate oyster growth on farms and reefs, and recycling programs that turn restaurants’ oyster shell waste into ecological barriers against flooding. More about some of those projects is at nature.org/SOAR.

The new projects will continue to bolster ecosystem health and coastal livelihoods, with an increased focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. Southern Alabama’s Alma Bryant High School, a previous SOAR recipient, will use its second award to improve the infrastructure of its oyster academy. In Alaska, the fund will help Kodiak Ocean Bounty educate Native youth on algae production, an essential step towards building the state’s first rural Tribal shellfish nursery.

“SOAR facilitates connections across industry, academia and coastal communities, which are fostering a more inclusive industry while also advancing marine conservation goals,” said Zack Greenberg, an officer with Pew. “A third of the projects supported by the Fund will bolster training and mentorship programs or support engagement with communities underrepresented in the aquaculture industry.”

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