The Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program (ShiRP) hit a major milestone in its efforts to replenish local clam populations this fall. “We have planted our millionth clam!” the organization announced on Thursday, December 3.
After surveying areas of the bay bottom several years ago, ShiRP observed that clam densities were not high enough to support healthy levels of reproduction. But in 2012, with the support of the Southampton Town Trustees and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the ecology group was able to begin planting no-take, protected “spawner sanctuaries” and jumpstart clam reproduction.
Since that time, ShiRP has seen great success, and it has now added more than one million clams to Shinnecock Bay. While revitalizing local stocks is important work on its own, adding adult clams to the bay bottom also provides needed filtration capacity which would otherwise diminish with dwindling shellfish populations.
ShiRP’s mission to restore the health of the East End ecosystem is implemented by undertaking research and scientific assessments, as well as shellfish restoration, which it is implementing in phases. Each phase of the restoration takes into account new information and lessons learned from the previous phase, making it an integrative and adaptive process. A communications component is also in place, which is focused on engaging with the community and its leaders.
After conducting a pilot study to scientifically assess the most successful species and locations for restoration in the bay, shellfish species and eelgrass beds are being restocked to improve water clarity and reduce nutrient loading. Water quality and species abundance is monitored throughout the restoration program, and the progress will be regularly communicated to the public.