Shell Yeah: Keeping Mollusks In The Bay

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Tony Alfani of the Department of Environmental Services working on the FLUPSY units. (Photos by Dagmar Fors Karppi)

The Town of Oyster Bay is taking the lead in keeping oysters in Oyster Bay, taking over responsibility for growing “free range” oysters and clams to increase the availability of the mollusks for the baymen and for local residents with shell-fishing permits. The seed clams and oysters are installed into what is known as a Floating Upweller System (FLUPSY).

“Tony [Alfieri] is in charge of the FLUPSY. He works from about 4 to 8 p.m. cleaning them out,” said Bill Shephard, at the Ida May Project (IMP) boatyard. The IMP and town use the same outside area to the east of the building so they have seen him at work building the FLUPSY.

Alfieri, who works for the town’s Environmental Resources Department, was building this year’s FLUPSY units, along with a friend, in preparation to putting them into the water.
“We’re getting 2 million seed clams and 1 million seed oysters from the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Southold. I used to do this, (grow the shellfish) years ago for Flower’s hatchery. This is the first year I’m doing it for the town,” said Alfieri. “The Baymen need some help.”

The chances of success for the program is very good, said Alfieri, a thought that was reiterated by Paul D’Orsay, Friends of the Bay executive director.

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Tony Alfani and a friend construct this year’s FLUPSY.

“We think the program is great. And having more shellfish in the bay proves it’s healthy and goes on to keep it clean,” he said. “We’re glad to see the whole seed program has got back to working after Hurricane Sandy. Last year the town began the program at the Oyster Bay Marina. It is great to see that now they have twice as many FLUPSY units in use.”

The unit is now in place at the Western Waterfront Pier. That dock system was just replaced this year, after Hurricane Sandy’s devastation.

Part of Alfieri’s job is to clean out the containers floating in the water and to remove any debris. He also will filter them according to size and as they grow large enough, they will be put into floating bags, all the while, waiting for them to get large enough to be moved to public lands as they become robust enough to survive on their own.

The town’s Department of Environmental Resources conducts a Bay Management Program within the Bay Management area off West Shore Road in Oyster Bay Harbor. Seed clams and mature clams are transplanted to this area for cleansing or spawning and future availability, on a limited basis, to local baymen. Clams from uncertified waters are periodically relocated to certified waters to enable them to cleanse themselves. Also, clams growing in certified waters in colder portions of the harbor are transplanted to warmer certified waters in the harbor to promote better spawning.

The FLUPSY units are part of the annual Seed Clam Program aimed at replenishing the hard clam population. Approximately 5 million seed clams are set out in protected north shore and south shore waters. Within four years, the seeds mature into harvest-worthy clams. In 2007, the town began planting 250,000 oysters in both north and south shore waters.

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Dagmar Fors Karppi is a writer for Anton Media Group.

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