OYSTER BAY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Long Island oyster farmers are struggling. The COVID-19 pandemic vastly limited restaurants’ need for shellfish. Orders are down from Montauk to New York City.

Now, with the oyster surplus growing, some aquaculture programs are helping to buy and plant thousands of mature shellfish into local harbors, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Wednesday.

On the streets of the village of Oyster Bay, where oyster is king, they are recovering from a pandemic cataclysm, when seafood restaurants closed or shellfish takeout orders plunged almost overnight. Yet, millions of oysters kept growing and threatening to breach marketable size.

“So by taking these oysters that would have normally gone on the tables of restaurants and releasing them in the environment, where they can reproduce, and add to the sustainability,” Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino said.

(Photo: CBS2)

READ MORE50,000 Oysters Dropped Into Long Island Harbor After Restaurant Closures Create Surplus

In protected Oyster Bay Harbor, thousands of surplus healthy adult oysters that won’t be sold due to age, flavor and texture, but can spawn, are on their way to the bottom of the bay to help clean the local waterway.

One mature oyster can filter up to 55 gallons of water per day, removing salt and sediment.

The Nature Conservancy is a partner.

“By buying back those oysters and being able to release them into the bay, we are able to stimulate the economy,” the Nature Conservancy’s Natalie Ryan said.

READ MOREOysters Playing Vital Role In Keeping NY, NJ Waterways Clean

A healthy oyster population not only not only means a clean bay, but locals love the good eating.

Restauranteurs say it’s the push they need and aquaculture enthusiasts are in it for the long haul.

“Clams and oysters everywhere and I hear about those glory days and usually those stories end in sadness — ‘The bay will never come back.’ Well, it is our goal by starting this aquaculture that we can ensure that future generations will have a bay that is cleaner than our bay today,” said oyster farmer Keith Powell of Neguntatogue.

FLASHBACKKey To A Cleaner Harbor? Diners, Restaurants, Students And 1 Billion Oysters

He said an oyster is a tiny little time capsule that will measure our progress.

In all, 30,000 oysters were planted Wednesday. The town and the conservancy will continue the aquaculture program throughout the summer and fall.

Jennifer McLogan