Environmental Groups Offer Bay-Friendly Holiday Gift

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An East End environmental advocacy group is teaming up with an environmental consulting firm to offer a unique gift that should appeal to all those environmentalists—and chefs—on holiday shopping lists.

As part of their Moriches Bay Project, the West Hampton Dunes Barrier Beach Preservation Association, a local nonprofit, and First Coastal Corporation, an environmental consulting firm in Westhampton Beach, are selling oyster gift certificates, packaged neatly and ready for a spot under the tree.

Essentially, those purchasing the certificates are buying baby mollusks on behalf of the recipients, and the “seed” oysters will be introduced to an oyster farm in Moriches Bay that is run by both organizations.

Laura Fabrizio, the president of the Barrier Beach Preservation Association (BBPA), explained that the goal of the drive is to allow community members to give the gift of a cleaner bay this holiday season. A healthy, adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, she pointed out. The species is vital to healthy waters and can also help restore plant and fish populations.

But aside from the knowledge that the gift will benefit the ecosystem, recipients can also take part in the oyster farming process in the spring, which is guided by Cornell Cooperative Extension scientists—and they can even harvest some of the shellfish in the fall once they are fully grown.

“It’s such an amazing educational tool,” said Ms. Fabrizio, who added that both groups would prefer if the recipients of the gift certificates opt to let their oysters grow alone so they can continue to filter the bay. ”And that’s really what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get the kids involved.”

The gift cards are $10 for 100 oysters, $25 for 250 oysters, $50 for 500 oysters, and $100 for 1,000 oysters. Anyone looking for more information about purchasing oyster certificates can email new.bbpa.board@gmail.com, call (516) 662-4702, or visit www.morichesbayproject.org.

Last week, the groups also announced that they will donate 10 percent of sales proceeds to the Southampton Town Water Quality Protection Fund, which town officials established to restore shellfish and eelgrass populations in local waterways.

“These are the kinds of partnerships we were looking for,” Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera said. “We’re excited and grateful for the BBPA and First Coastal.”

On Friday, she met with Ms. Fabrizio and members of the Westhampton Beach High School virtual enterprises program, through which students run their own virtual business in an international marketplace. Amy Demchak, their teacher, explained that the students were required to incorporate community service into their simulated business plan, but decided they could actually make a difference by selling the gift certificates for the Moriches Bay Project.

As of last week, they had raised $70 toward their goal of $200, the students said.

Tahsin Korur, a senior at the high school, said many of the students take marine science courses and understand the grave issues surrounding water quality and the health of the waterways, so it was a no-brainer for them to help out.

Though a total of 30,000 oysters have been sold so far, Ms. Fabrizio pointed out that it would take roughly 448 million of the mollusks to filter the entirety of Moriches Bay, which spans from Westhampton Beach to Mastic Beach. The BBPA founded its garden last spring and it currently boasts some 5,000 oysters.

“Eventually, we can get there,” she said.

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