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Replanting effort aids local oyster farmers

Long Island oyster farmers will get a much-needed assist as thousands of oysters will be replanted beginning this weekend.

During the pandemic, oyster farmers have had a hard time selling their product. So last month, The Nature Conservancy and Pew Charitable Trusts launched a program to buy oysters from local farmers to use in nearby oyster reef restoration sites.

Over the next few weeks, oyster farmers will deliver 350,000 oysters so that they can be counted, cleaned and recorded by Long Island marine scientists, and then, most importantly, replanted for restoration.

The replanting is part of the larger Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration (SOAR) initiative, a partnership between the Nature Conservancy and the Pew Charitable Trusts, that aims to extend $2 million in payments to oyster farmers to support more than 100 shellfish companies and preserve over 200 critical jobs throughout the East Coast and Washington state. Over 5 million oysters are being deployed to rebuild 27 acres of imperiled native shellfish reefs across 20 restoration sites.

Oyster beds are an important part of the marine ecosystem, since they serve as nurseries for important fish and wildlife and reduce the dangerous power of storm waves. They also act as a filter, helping to provide clean water for swimming, boating and fishing.

The Gino Macchio Foundation is helping to underwrite the effort in Bellport Bay, where Thomas Schultz, president of the Friends of Bellport Bay and oyster farmer Chuck Westfall, president of the Long Island Oyster Growers Association are supporting the campaign that begins Friday, Dec. 4 at the Bellport Marina and continues on Tuesday, Dec. 8 on Center Moriches.

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