top of page

Southampton To Share in Nature Conservancy Oyster Restoration Funding

The Nature Conservancy on Tuesday, February 28, announced that Southampton Town would receive a portion of $6.3 million in new funding from a program that helps restore oyster beds across the country. 

Two programs that Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences is involved with will receive about $140,000 over three years to restore oyster beds in Shinnecock Bay. 

Stony Brook partners with both the Southampton Town Trustees in the

Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program and the State Department of Environmental Conservation in the Long Island Shellfish Restoration Project. 

“The local partner that is super important is Stony Brook University,” said Boze Hancock, The Nature Conservancy’s senior marine restoration scientist. He lauded Stony Brook’s success in restoring hard clam populations over the past decade and said the time had come to try to revitalize oyster beds. 

On Long Island, Shinnecock Bay and a similar program in Oyster Bay have been targeted for funding because they showed success in earlier seeding efforts in 2021 as part of the first phase of its Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration (SOAR) project. 

According to Mae Yeung, a Nature Conservancy spokeswoman, during that first phase, oversized oysters were purchased from 35 Long Island commercial oyster farmers who had seen their market dry up when the COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants to close. Those oysters were reseeded across several Long Island bays. Efforts in Shinnecock Bay and Oyster Bay showed the best results. 

Oysters are known to be able to filter up to 50 gallons of water per day, but Hancock said a healthy oyster population serves a larger role. “Oyster reefs are the temperate equivalent of a coral reef,” Hancock said, in that they provide habitat for other forms of marine life. Reefs are formed when oysters grow into contact with one another and cement themselves together. 

Oyster stocks were decimated by wholesale harvesting that began in the mid-19th century when steam engines were first used to power dredges, Hancock said. In many bays, such as Shinnecock, there were simply not 

enough oysters left to be able to reproduce. The goal of the current program, he said, is to reverse that trend. 

Researchers will use some of their money to purchase additional stock from

commercial growers, including irregular-shaped oysters, to be seeded, providing a boost to commercial aquaculture operations, with work beginning later this year, Hancock said. 

The SOAR project was launched in 2021 in conjunction with the Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, and the United States Department of Agriculture. 

The current program is being funded through a $3 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s National Coastal Resilience Fund and $3.3 million from Builders Initiative, the philanthropic arm of Builders Vision, an organization dedicated to building a more sustainable planet. 

Nationally, the program has purchased more than 3.5 million oysters, providing a pandemic lifeline to 125 commercial growers and helping save more than 450 jobs, while restoring more than 40 acres of imperiled oyster reefs. A total of 36 resiliency projects have been undertaken across 16 states, The Nature Conservancy said.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page