60,000 pounds of recycled shells to be used in Hempstead oyster restoration program

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There is a new initiative to ensure the South Shore has enough oysters to filter the waterways. 

Lido Beach in the Town of Hempstead has collected around 60,000 pounds of shells so far to help create oyster beds in the local waterways.

Marine biologist Stephen Naham says the program has been getting a lot of help from the community since it started a year ago. "We actually call this program the Community Oyster Restoration Effort. We've been working with local restaurants, seafood festivals and commercial fishermen," he says.

Adelphi Environmental Studies Professor Aaren Freeman says he created CORE with his students. He says he and his students collect the discarded shells as well as educate seafood providers about the program.

“The Town of Hempstead was looking for shells, so we decided to pull this together as a project,” he says. 

Naham says the program staff pick up shells from these community every day. Then, he says, the shells are stored in facilities where they are cured under the sun to kill off any living organisms on them.

After sitting out for at least six months, Naham says the staff begins to spawn the oysters on the shells around springtime. He says the staff sets the oyster larvae on the shells and places them in bags. Each bag can end up with thousands of oyster larvae on them. Lastly, the shells with the growing oysters are emptied into the waterways for filtering.

Naham says, because the oysters are filter feeders, they promote the removal of nitrogen pollution in the waterways. The repurposing of the shells decreases landfill pollution as well.

“All the material we collect, which would otherwise be thrown in the garbage and wind up in a landfill, we are turning into oyster reefs,” he says.

This weekend, there is an oyster fest in Long Beach that will help the program. Festival goers will get to eat oysters and clams, and then their shells will be used in the oyster program.

Festival organizer Terrence Mulligan says he expects about 5,000 oyster shells will be collected for the program at the event.

"It's nice to know we are helping out the environment locally,” says Mulligan.

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