Since early 2018 Seatuck has been piloting an oyster shell recovery program to collect oyster shells from restaurants for use in oyster and habitat restoration efforts. The program - called Half Shells for Habitat - is now officially launched!
Maureen Dunn, Seatuck's Water Quality Scientist (pictured at right with Seatuck board member Charlie Weiss), conceived and established the program to address the critical need to return oyster shells to Long Island's estuaries. The shells provide vitally important substrate on which young oysters can attach and grow, and they help to combat coastal acidification by returning calcium to the water (see diagram below for more detail).
Seatuck partnered with the Town of Brookhaven on the program. The town established a shell storage site at their composting facilty in Manorville (pursuant to NYSDEC regulations, after being collected the shells have to sit in the sun for at least 6 months before going back in the water). Town Supervisor Edward Romaine has enthusiastically embraced the idea and town officials have plans to use some of the shells in their oyster restoration program. As the program grows, Stony Brook University and Cornell Cooperative Extension have also expressed interest in using the shells in their shellfish restoration programs (a recent oyster project required the purchase of shells from New England since few were available on Long Island).
Half Shells for Habitat was piloted with the generous cooperation of Catch Oyster Bar in Patchogue and three of the Bohlsen Restaurant Group's restaurants:Tellers (Islip), H20 (East Islip) and Prime (Huntington). The Snapper Inn (Oakdale), Salt & Barrel (Bay Shore) and The Cull House (Sayville) also joined the program as early participants.
How the Half Shells for Habitat Program Works: