Real estate broker is requesting that the allow him to raise oysters beneath the Long Wharf — an idea they are receptive to, while wary of the chosen location.
The board and Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said during their meeting Sept. 13 that they support the idea but would like to see Harrison raise the shellfish in a less-trafficked area. The issue was tabled until next month so the two parties could discuss alternate locations.
“It has to be a place where they can’t be harvested,” Harrison said, explaining that the traffic on Long Wharf is exactly why it would be a good place to raise oysters.
Trustee Bruce Stafford had said that the oysters could cause an unsafe condition because there are no railings on Long Wharf and curious children might fall into the water while trying to get a look at the submerged oyster cages. He suggested they use an area near the left side of the LCpl Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge, which connects Sag Harbor to North Haven, but Harrison said the shellfish could be more easily stolen there and someone could get very sick from eating them.
“The farther into the shadows, the more dangerous it is,” he said.
With permission from Harbormaster Bob Bori, Harrison recently set up several oyster cages off Long Wharf as a test, and so far they have remained without incident. Last week Harrison revealed the locations of the cages, which were only visible by a thin cord inconspicuously hooked to the docks on Long Wharf.
To raise oysters, the seeds are placed in a mesh net or cage and suspended beneath the water, but above the silt on the bottom of the bay. As the organisms grow, the weaker oysters die and the survivors are transferred into bigger cages, Harrison explained, adding that maintaining the oysters requires as few as three hours per month.
He said oysters are excellent for the aquatic food chain, as filter-feeders they improve water quality, they are an organic fix to problems like brown tide, and would support a working waterfront in Sag Harbor. Harrison said he also plans to use the oysters as a teaching tool for local schoolchildren.
“I think it would connect the kids to the bottom of the water that they don’t see,” Harrison said, adding that taking care of oysters and learning their role in the ecosystem could make the local youth more environmentally conscious.
According to Harrison, there are about 30 docks around Sag Harbor that support oysters in various stages of growth, and if Long Wharf is approved as a location to farm, other locations could follow. Harrison and other oyster enthusiasts also have some 15,000 oysters growing in a Community Oyster Garden, which is part of an effort to create an oyster reef off Long Beach.
He said $200 could produce 500 edible oysters in two years. More important, Harrison said the water benefits more as the oyster population grows. “It’s sort of basic common sense,” he said, though he agreed that the village is right to make sure everything is done responsibly.
“It’s never going to be harmful to the environment,” Harrison said. He pointed out that keeping Sag Harbor’s waterfront healthy should be paramount because without it no one would come to the village. “A healthy aquaculture system gives back a hell of a lot more than it takes out,” Harrison said, adding later, “It’s the start of something positive that has ripples that will go through the decades.”
In a phone call last week, Gilbride maintained his support for the project, but not necessarily the location. “It’s all good things, I just hope we can work out the technicalities,” he said.