Craig Strong, of Bay Management Specialists, inspects oysters that are...

Craig Strong, of Bay Management Specialists, inspects oysters that are being grown at the Mount Sinai Mariculture hatchery on Aug. 20, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Jessica Rotkiewicz

Brookhaven Town was awarded a $400,000 state environmental grant to produce an additional 1 million shellfish at the Mount Sinai Mariculture hatchery over the next two years.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation awarded the funds on June 20.

“Shellfish are vital to the health of our waterways,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said in a statement after receiving the grant. “This grant will go a long way in helping the town continue our very important work to increase the shellfish population and clean up our harbors and bays.”

The hatchery at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai grows about 1.5 million oysters and more than 1 million clams each year.

The environmental grants are part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York Shellfish initiative to yield about 12 million hard clam seeds and 3 million oysters by 2019 across bodies of water.

Another $400,000 state grant will go to Hempstead Town to improve equipment that will help shellfish grow more quickly at the Point Lookout hatchery. Two other grants, part of $1.6 million for approving shellfish hatcheries, go to East Hampton and Islip towns.

Funded projects  include new or expanded water intake and algal systems, broodstock conditioning, spawning, holding systems, setting tanks, and nursery and field grow-out systems among others.

In Brookhaven, juvenile clams and oysters are purchased from local shellfish nurseries and then grown in a land-based system, in which seawater is pumped past the shellfish held in tanks, officials said. The shellfish feed on the algae in the water column, allowing them to grow faster than they normally would, away from predators, officials said.

The oysters are kept over the winter in cages to continue growing, then released into local waterways, officials said.

The Cedar Beach hatchery releases about 3 million oysters and clams in Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson harbors, the Great South Bay and elsewhere. About 75 percent of "seed" shellfish survive to adulthood.

Brookhaven has 2 million seed oysters, 1 million seed clams and 70,000 seed scallops at the hatchery, town officials said.

The town board adopted a bond resolution earlier this month to cover the expansion in case the grant didn’t come through.

“The scope of work at our Mariculture facility has expanded over the years and we need to upgrade the system. This grant is an affirmation of the good work that we are doing,” Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner said in a statement.

Latest videos

Newsday LogoYour Island. Your Community. Your News.Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months