Unsold Long Island oysters being brought to sanctuaries

Oyster farmers across Long Island are stuck with shellfish and have nowhere to sell them.

"There's no way to market these animals. Some of these people have been trying to do door-to-door sales," said Craig Strong, a bay management specialist for the Town of Brookhaven.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, seafood restaurants, many of which offered takeout only for a portion of the year, have taken oysters off the menu, leaving growers with little to no market.

But now a partnership between the Town of Brookhaven and environmental nonprofits including the Moriches Bay Project and Nature Conservancy are working together to purchase the shellfish growers had trouble selling. Over the next three weeks, close to 300,000 oysters will be put in sanctuary sites to help clean the waters.

"The oysters are getting too big to sell to the markets and it means they're more mature, have more reproductive ability," Nature Conservancy's Adam Starke said.

"Having an alternative solution like this where they'll be put back into sanctuaries in clean water, spawn other oysters is going to be essential not only for the environment and for the economy," Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico said.

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The financial assistance is helping oyster farmer Sue Wicks, who said this has been one of the worst years.

"This money certainly, yes, puts food on the table and allows me to hire people I couldn't before," Wicks said.

In the winter months, oysters can stay out of the water and dormant for days. This allows the transition to their new home to be easier.

"One adult oyster actually filters 50 gallons of water every day," Moriches Bay Project cofounder Laura Fabrizio said.

As part of the Town of Brookhaven's shellfish restoration project, 3 million clams and oysters are spread across the north and south shore bays each year.