Uncertainty over the future of the shellfish lands at Oyster Bay Harbor puts the health of aquaculture at risk, according to the company, which has been harvesting clams and oysters there for more than a century.
Frank M. Flower & Sons has stopped seeding the berry, which averages over 100 million oyster and clam seeds a year, because he is unsure whether Oyster Bay officials will give the company a new lease to harvest them at maturity, said James Cammarata, the company’s lawyer.
âWe had to close because we didn’t have a lease,â said Christa Relyea, the company’s general manager, of their hatchery and seeding operations.
The company’s 30-year lease expires in 2024.
In 2020, the city rejected offers from Frank M. Flower and others to lease the 800 acres of shellfish fishing grounds in Oyster Bay Harbor, citing a lack of tax information from bidders.
Cammarata said that without a lease, the business could shut down.
“If you’re not going to be in business anymore, why would you spend a million and a half dollars planting seeds that there is a chance that by the time they mature they won’t be available for harvest? ? ” said Cammarata.
According to the company, the biomass of shellfish plays a key role in water filtration.
Oyster Bay City Supervisor Joseph Saladino said the city is not bankrupting the company, but has given no indication when it might reissue a request for proposals.
âWe are exploring a multitude of different options on how best to manage the bay’s resources and environmental health,â Saladino said in an interview Thursday. He said the city wanted to be fair to all stakeholders, including independent baymen. “We are continuing to review this issue with our legal team and our environmental team to make sure the process is fair for all.”
Saladino said the town had no documentation of how many shell seeds Frank M. Flower had put in the bay. City spokeswoman Marta Kane said the company had been evasive on this point. Cammarata said the company’s seeding operations are a “matter of common knowledge” and are on file with New York State and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Cammarata said copies had been provided to the city.
The town’s hatchery is expected to produce 10 million shellfish seeds this year in protected parts of the bay, Saladino said.
Friends of the Bay nonprofit has expressed concern about the declining shellfish population.
âFrank M. Flower & Sons ceased hatchery and seeding operations two years ago, resulting in a situation where harvest continued without commercial reseeding of oysters and clams,â said the group in a statement Thursday. “We have had discussions with the city on what steps it can take to resolve the problem and have been encouraged by the actions planned.”
FRANK M. FLEUR AND SON
Founded in 1887
The hatchery produces approximately 50 million clam seeds and 50 million oyster seeds per year
Oysters take 2 years to reach market size
Clams take 3-4 years to reach market size
Operates in the port of Oyster Bay under a 30-year lease with the Town of Oyster Bay
The lease expires in 2024
SOURCE: Frank M. Flower & Sons