Moriches Bay Project Sponsors ‘Million Mollusk March’

Originally published Dec. 10, 2014

Leaders of the Moriches Bay Project are trying to raise money to fund the “Million Mollusk March,” an online fundraising campaign that strives to introduce one million baby oysters into the bay by the end of 2016.

In order to accomplish its goal, the group needs to raise $20,000 in donations to purchase the oysters from a breeding lab, scout locations for their new home, acquire equipment to construct the holding cages and pay for labor. Those behind the initiative must also cover all associated transportation costs and pay for the continued monitoring and assessment of the oyster beds.

“Our group has a really big heart, and we’re determined to make this happen,” Laura Fabrizio, head of the Moriches Bay Project, said. “We’re proud of what we’ve done so far, but in order to expand and become a force, we need to raise money and reach more of the community.”

Created in 2013 by the West Hampton Dunes Barrier Beach Association and Westhampton Beach based-First Coastal Corporation, the Moriches Bay Project is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the overall water quality of Moriches Bay, which spans from Mastic Beach to Westhampton Beach, namely by reestablishing shellfish and eelgrass populations.

The group now tends to a pair of oyster farms in Moriches Bay. The first, located behind 906 Dune Road in West Hampton Dunes Village, is home to about 5,000 oysters. In late June, volunteers seeded an additional 10,000 baby oysters in the second farm, located near Lashley Beach in Westhampton Beach Village.

Last month, the group started an online fundraiser through Indiegogo—a website that allows users to create fundraising campaigns—titled “The Moriches Bay Project Million Mollusk March.” Anyone can donate online by visiting http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/moriches-bay-project-million-mollusk-march.

Ms. Fabrizio said the biggest challenge for her group, which advocates for establishing oyster beds in Moriches Bay to filter nitrates and naturally cleanse the water, is spreading the word to young people and community members who are unaware of their efforts.

“The people that want to donate are already donating,” she said, “but it’s reaching other people and getting our name out there that’s going to increase our footprint in the community and really make a difference.”

Perks for donors are listed on the site and include a simple “Thank You” on the project’s website to tickets to their annual summer kickoff fundraiser held every May. Each week, there will be a different goal or prize available for donors.

As of earlier this week, the group had raised more than $5,000, which equates to about 50,000 baby oysters. A $1 donation buys 10 baby oysters, Ms. Fabrizio said, which can filter about 500 gallons of water per day, according to estimates.

Ms. Fabrizio and her group are also selling gift cards for the holidays. This is the second year in a row that the Moriches Bay Project is asking supporters to give the “gift of oysters.” For a $10 donation, 100 oysters will go into the bay in the name of the recipient of the gift card. Gift card values are as follows: $10 for 100 oysters, $25 for 250 oysters, $50 for 500 oysters, and $100 for 1,000 oysters.

Moriches Bay Project leaders are also working with Southampton Town and will donate 10 percent of its profits to the Southampton Town Water Quality Protection Fund, which was set up by Councilwoman Christine Scalera in 2012 to help finance water quality improvements, including oyster farm and eelgrass planting, and septic system rebates for homeowners.

“This is a great opportunity,” Ms. Scalera said of the partnership. “It’s also a great idea. The Moriches Bay Project is great in the way it partners with local groups and the town to spread its message.”

Gift cards are now being sold by Westhampton Beach High School business students and are also available by calling Ms. Fabrizio at (516) 662-4702. They can also be purchased online at http://www.morichesbayproject.org.

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