Updated: Sep 1, 2022
The following article was written by Bruce Milliken who is on the board at the Conscience Point Shellfish Hatchery. Please consider supporting them via their Community Supported Aquaculture Program which you can learn more about below.
Not all of our members may be aware that the Southampton History Museum makes part of its land at the Conscience Point Historic Site and Nature Walk available to the Conscience Point Shellfish Hatchery (CPSH), a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing our town’s rich maritime history with modern practices of sustainable aquaculture and ecological stewardship of town waters.
Founded in 2013 and staffed by volunteers and part-time staff, the Conscience Point Shellfish Hatchery grows shellfish (primarily oysters, but also clams and recently, scallops) and sells oysters through their CSA (Community Supported Aquaculture) Program directly to consumers, as well as to some local markets and restaurants. In addition, since its founding, the CPSH has supported the clean water efforts of the Southampton Town Trustees by donating over 1.7 million oysters, clams, and scallops to the Trustees. The Hatchery also offer various opportunities to learn about shellfish aquaculture and how CPS contributes to healthier waters, including tours for organized groups and CSA members, experiences to “learn-by-doing” for volunteers, and an internship program for promising marine science students and graduates who seek employment in lab technology, marine ecology, conservation, and aquaculture enterprise, by providing them with a hands-on education in every aspect of our operations.
CSA subscribers pay a membership fee to the Hatchery up front in exchange for regular shares of produce—in this case, delicious oysters! The Hatchery currently offers three levels of CSA membership:
1. GOLD – 300 oysters for $300
2. SILVER – 200 oysters for $230
3. BRONZE – 100 oysters for $130
The oysters are available every week beginning the last Saturday in May and continuing through November. By Wednesday of any week, you let them know how many you want and on Saturday you pick them up at the Hatchery. If you want, you can join other volunteers who help sort and clean oysters on one of the Hatchery’s work barges in the harbor. If you don’t have enough time for that, then maybe you can take a few extra minutes and enjoy our Conscience Point Nature Walk!
By participating in the Conscience Point Shellfish Hatchery CSA Program, you are helping them achieve their missions of restoring our local shellfish population, improving water quality, and promoting aquaculture. You can “Eat Well and Do Good” at the same time!
Membership benefits also include a tour of their facility and oyster field for 2 - 4 people, at which time you can learn about their operations and the benefits of aquaculture.
Their oysters and clams are used to seed local bays, restore shellfish populations, and improve water quality. Last year they donated 6,000 oysters, 80,000 clams, and 40,000 scallops to the Town Trustees, distributing them into the waters of North Sea Harbor and Bullhead Bay. In previous years they have been placed in other town waters, including Sag Harbor, Reeves Bay, Cold Spring Pond, and Moriches Bay.
As you probably know, excess nitrogen due to fertilizers, storm water runoff, and septic system discharge is a major problem within the Peconic Estuary System. But what you probably don’t know is that a mature oyster is capable of filtering up to 50 gallons of water per day, by consuming plankton which eventually is denitrified by bacteria and the resulting harmless nitrogen gas released into the atmosphere. The Conscience Point Shellfish Hatchery estimates that the oysters and clams they have grown have helped clean billions of gallons of water since 2013.
If you are interested in learning more about their operation, in improving our water quality, or just in eating delicious oysters, please consider joining their CSA program—Eat Well and Do Good!