Whether one likes eating oysters or not, the fact that the shellfish’s population is down as much as 95 percent in New York is cause for serious concern. According to Stony Brook Southampton graduate and marine biologist Dean Tarulli—who’s currently Kickstarting Out East Oysters, a 10-acre oyster farm in East Hampton—these simple mollusks do remarkable things for the local ecosystem.
“Each oyster filters about 40 gallons of water a day,” Tarulli says, explaining that oysters are essential to help clean the water and restore marine habitats. His small farm is projected to grow some 7 million oysters, which could filter about 7.3 billion gallons of water in just one growing season. “It’s huge amounts.”
At the same time, Tarulli points out that each oyster can spit out a few thousand eggs, which will broadcast and disperse into the wild, seeding more oysters beyond the borders of the farm—all while providing the community with some delicious, safe and legally cultivated gastronomical delights.
Tarulli has already secured the permit and Napeague Bay location for his farm, but he still needs the funds to make Out East Oysters a reality. For that, he turned to the Kickstarter crowdsourcing website, where he launched a campaign to raise $12,000 for farming supplies, including baby oysters and the necessary equipment to grow and protect them from predators and sweeping ocean currents.
As of Monday evening, December 5, Out East Oysters has raised $8,061 from 94 backers, leaving just eight more days to raise the remaining $4,000 in the “all or nothing” campaign.
Backers of the project are offered various rewards for their participation— depending on how much money they contribute. For a $15 contribution, a backer will receive 15 oysters to eat, but the rewards get more significant from there. For $175, Tarulli is offering backers their very own cage of 120 oysters, and he’ll provide updates and progress reports as they grow. Higher level backers can get larger cages with more oysters, as well as special rewards, such as a dinner cruise for two, naming their boat and more.
Contributions between $18 and $80 will earn backers a variety of handmade oyster shell crafts and gifts—including scented candles, jewelry and even a wind chime—T-shirts and other goodies.
Out East Oysters is also working with the Billion Oyster Project, which aims to restore New York Harbor with 1 billion oysters by the year 2030. Even backer contributions as low as one dollar will buy a one-oyster donation to this worthy cause.
“It’s a business, but my passion is restoration work, so I had to combine the two or I really wouldn’t enjoy working,” Tarulli says.
To be part of Out East Oysters, back the Kickstarter campaign here.
Watch the Kickstarter video below.