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Bellport environmental group will plant oysters to improve the health of the bay

Friends of Bellport Bay will plant thousands of oysters in the bay of the same name in hopes of helping to clean the water of pollutants.

Thomas Schultz, 49, co-founder of the environmental group, said it will distribute about 30,000 mature and baby oysters off the shoreline of Ridge Island, part of Bellport Bay that is within the Fire Island National Seashore boundaries.

The planting will take place at 9 a.m. on July 18 after a ceremonial launch at the Bellport Village dock.

"This is the culmination of many, many months of hard work. This is a big deal. We're going to start growing a new ecosystem," Schultz said.

The group, which focuses on the health of Bellport Bay -- the eastern edge of Great South Bay -- plans to spread oysters throughout the entire bay every weekend this summer until a total of 130,000 oysters have been planted. Brookhaven Town has agreed to donate 100,000 oysters, while the group plans to purchase the rest from Suffolk County.

Oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day and will help re-establish the health of the ecosystem, Schultz said.

Friends of Bellport Bay raises money through art sales and relies on donations of oysters and clams used in restocking efforts. The group hosted its inaugural meeting in February laying out its mission, which includes ensuring the public knows the health of the bay, and to plant shellfish, mussels and clams to help filter the water, officials said.

The group also wants to assist shoreline communities such as Brookhaven hamlet and Shirley in improving their storm water runoff systems, and will inform the public on how to limit the use of fertilizers, Schultz said.

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