Southampton Town Trustees Dump Clamshells Into Mecox Bay To Help Oysters

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Hoping to give growing oysters a boost, Southampton Town Trustees marine maintenance crews dumped thousands of pounds of dried clamshells into Mecox Bay last week.

The shells, which the Trustees were given by a commercial skimmer clam boat owner from Freeport, were spread along the northern and western shorelines of the bay, where large natural populations of oysters grow on the bottom.

The Trustees say the dried shells will provide a calcium base for oysters to anchor onto and form their shells from as they grow.

“The oyster spat likes to attach itself to shells and grow there,” Trustee Bill Pell said. “Years ago, the oyster factories would save all their shells and dump them back in the bay to help the new set grow.”

Skimmer clams are the large gray-and-white clams whose shells are commonly seen washed up on ocean beaches. The shells the Trustees were given were stored on a Trustee-owned property near the Ponquogue Bridge for the last year to dry out before they were transported to Mecox this month.

In addition to dumping the shells, last spring the Trustees hired two baymen to “cultivate” the bottom of Mecox Bay by dragging iron dredges back and forth to break up shells and loosen the bottom sediment, providing a better habitat for this year’s set of shellfish to grow in.

Oysters may be harvested from the southwestern corner of the bay. Some of the shells were also deposited along the northern shoreline, near Mohawk Lane, where oysters grow but may not be harvested because of high bacteria levels caused by septic systems from nearby homes. But Mr. Pell said that the Trustees still want to encourage oysters to grow in that area to boost the wild spawning stock in the bay.

The commercial oyster season in the bay is open from December 1 to April 3.

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