Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Cleaner and Clearer Moriches Bay

April 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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cleaner and clearer moriches bay 2When Aram Terchunian, founder of First Coastal, an environmental services company, approached the Westhampton Dunes Barrier Beach Preservation Association in 2012 with the idea of bringing the community together to care for Moriches Bay and improve its water quality, they jointly created the Moriches Bay Project®.

cleaner and clearer moriches bay 3While the project’s creators were enthusiastic, we could not imagine the extent of the local support we received from the Southampton trustees, residents, schools, libraries, marinas, and local shop keepers around Moriches Bay. It seems everyone knew something needed to be done to bring an awareness and involvement that was missing.

Oyster farming enterprises and eelgrass planting programs have been a part of bay life, but this new project’s mission to include the community — including the children — into caring for a long-neglected Moriches Bay makes it distinctive.
cleaner and clearer moriches bay 4Kids involved with the Moriches Bay Project® have fun building oyster cages and assembling oyster farms, all while learning from scientists as to how important oyster farming is to the health of Moriches Bay (one adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water each day).

cleaner and clearer moriches bay 6The project has partnered with Suffolk County Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) in Southold, which supplies the spat from its hatchery in Southold. They advise on the best locations for the oyster beds and farms. In the summer of 2014, Gregg Rivara, CCE aquaculture specialist, aided the Moriches Bay Project® in planting the first oyster beds in Moriches Bay in over a decade.

cleaner and clearer moriches bay 5The oyster farm put into Moriches Bay in 2014 became a real community event. Local politicians, students, and other community members flocked to Lashley Beach to build the farm — it was a fun and educational hands-on endeavor as scientist Kim Tetrault from CCE and project scientists  showed the assembled how to build oyster cages and establish the farm. It’s now home to 5,000 oysters filtering 250,000 gallons of the bay daily.

Eelgrass used to be in abundance in Moriches Bay, but has now become scarce. Its presence is an important factor in improving the quality of the water — eelgrass helps to absorb carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, which marine life needs to sustain life.  Restoring it is a three-step process, and again the Moriches Bay Project® enlists the support and services of local schools and community members.  First, we gather during the late summer and cut holes in burlap disks. Then, right before CCE divers are ready to plant, we weave the eelgrass shoots into these burlap disks. Thereafter, the divers go out into a predetermined location in the bay to plant the disks.

Harvey Gessin, owner of Windswept Marina in East Moriches, took an early interest. As a boater and marina operator, he realized his responsibility towards the quality of the waters in Moriches Bay, so he donated office space to make informational pamphlets and video available to interested persons. A virtual tank is planned so that the community can see the difference oyster farming makes.

The Moriches Bay Project® welcomes everyone’s interest and involvement at our community center and at events, as well as contributing to fundraising efforts. Every dollar contributed puts 10 water-filtering oysters into Moriches Bay. Our website, http://morichesbayproject.org/, lists ways to become involved (you can also email morichesbayproject@gmail.com).

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By Laura Fabrizio

The author is president of the Moriches Bay Project®.

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