The Billion Oyster Project Wants to Repopulate New York Harbor with Ecosystem-Saving Shellfish

© Justine Sterling
By Abbe Baker Posted June 23, 2015

Once a hotbed for acquaculture, the New York Harbor was dubbed the oyster capital of the world. But now, due to overharvesting, dredging and pollution, NYC oysters are functionally extinct. Enter The New York Harbor School’s Billion Oyster Project. 

Once a hotbed for acquaculture, the New York Harbor was dubbed the oyster capital of the world. But now, due to overharvesting, dredging and pollution, NYC oysters are functionally extinct. Enter The New York Harbor School’s Billion Oyster Project. The brainchild of Murray Fisher and Peter Malinowski, the project aims to restore oyster beds to a population of one billion live oysters around 100 acres of reefs by the year 2030. The result? Cleaner water, greater biodiversity and reclaiming that rightful title of oyster capital. 

Will the oysters be edible? Unfortunately, no. “There are too many persistent pollutants in the harbor,” states Oceana exec chef and BOP chef partner, Ben Pollinger. “But despite the fact that we won’t eat these oysters for several generations, if ever, there is importance in giving a direct and immediate visual of the work oysters do, as well as raising awareness of pollutants.”

While 11,500,000 oysters have been restored, there’s still a long way to go. Here’s how you or organizations you are involved with can help: 

Schools: Become a satellite campus. Thirty-six public schools in the Tri-State area have already partnered with the program, receiving a water quality kit and project curriculum to teach in their classes. Students learn how to raise oyster larvae, build commercial-scale “oyster condos,” design underwater monitoring equipment and can share all their research results on the BOP website.  

Restaurants: Donate those used shells! On average, restaurants throw out some 500,000 shells every week. Skip the trash can and donate the spent shells directly to the project! Billion Oyster Project provides labeled shell collecting bins in various gallon sizes, as well as weekly pickup. Every shell recycled means 20 new restored oysters. Register your restaurant on the BOP website. 

Volunteer. Work alongside Harbor School students and staff on Governor’s Island, and help build oyster reefs and count baby oysters. The project also partners with companies and organizations to create customized volunteer days. 

Attend Special Events. The New York Harbor Regatta is slated for Friday, September 18, with all proceeds benefitting Harbor School programs. Get your tickets today

Related: 20 Sustainable Seafood Recipes
How to Shuck an Oyster
Recipes from Sustainable Food Visionaries

 

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