The Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the city, educating the public about its distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation.
The Billion Oyster Project (BOP) is working to restore the oyster population in New York Harbor. The organization seeks to repair the ecosystem by reintroducing 100 acres of oyster reefs over the next 20 years. Their ultimate goal is to make New York the oyster capital of the world again!
Students from the New York Harbor School, a unique public high school located on Governor's Island, have helped make this project a reality for the past six years. The school's curriculum includes marine sciences, technology, and scuba diving. Students, teachers, and volunteers work to raise oyster larvae and reintroduce them to the harbor. Restaurants donate used shells for recycling as home to a new generation of oysters.
To date, the BOP has restored 20 million oysters and 1.5 miles of total reef area to New York Harbor. Additionally, 19.7 trillion gallons of water have been filtered and 72,500 pounds of nitrogen have been removed from the water by this new oyster population. More than 300,000 pounds of oyster shells have been reclaimed and recycled.
This summer, the BOP partnered with student researchers from Wagner College to test whether oysters might survive in Lemon Creek, a wetland system emptying into Prince’s Bay along the southeastern coast of Staten Island. Though local oysters are still not safe to eat, the research team hopes that the mollusks will provide crucial environmental services such as filtering water and reinforcing shorelines against wave energy and storm surges.
As we grow increasingly concerned about the threats of rising waters and more severe weather, BOP hopes to put oysters back to work. Perhaps, in this case, New York’s environmental past can inform our environmental future. Maybe one way to move forward is to look back, by restoring our ecosystem’s natural ability to protect itself.
Cover photo by moorecharitable via Instagram