Town’s Public Oyster Program Expands

East Hampton Town residents will be able to grow oysters in a portion of Napeague Harbor, in a program run by the town shellfish hatchery. David E. Rattray

The East Hampton Town Trustees voted unanimously to expand the town’s community oyster garden program to Napeague Harbor at their meeting on Feb. 11. 

Under the program, launched in Three Mile Harbor in 2016, individuals and families can grow up to 1,000 oysters and keep half of them. The program expanded from 15 to 40 plots in Three Mile Harbor in its second year, and a second site at Hog Creek was added. It expanded again last year, with 11 growers in Accabonac Harbor. 

The trustees designated a 100-by-50-foot area of bottomland in Napeague Harbor for the new oyster garden site. It is near the end of Crassen Boulevard on Napeague, where a community preservation fund purchase of a parcel will provide access, John Barley Dunne, the director of the town’s shellfish hatchery, told the trustees last month. It is to house as many as 20 plots, each exclusively leased to one or more individuals working in concert. The area will be closed to the public for the taking of shellfish. 

Mr. Dunne told the trustees that the water is very shallow there, so the garden site would be “a wading spot.” 

Known as the East Hampton Shellfish Education Enhancement Directive, or EHSEED, the program is modeled on Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Southold Projects in Aquaculture Training, or SPAT, on the North Fork.

Residents of the town are given priority to take part. The cost, $250 per individual or family and $150 each year thereafter, includes oysters, gear, and instruction. Last year, residents who own a dock also became eligible for the program, with one waterfront resident at Accabonac Harbor and two at Hog Creek taking part, for a first-year fee of $350. 

The program encourages residents to be stewards of the environment while enhancing shellfish stocks. A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, while the gear provides habitat for crabs, nursery fish, and other marine life.