Billion Oyster Project


2019, 2020, 2021


Brooklyn, NY


Oyster Restoration in New York City

In 1600, New York Harbor had around 220,000 acres of oyster reefs, which sustained the local populations for generations. The pristine estuary hosted thousands of species and was one of the most biologically productive, diverse, and dynamic environments on the planet.

By 1906, New Yorkers had eaten every last oyster, the once plentiful reefs had been dredged up or covered in silt, and the water quality was too poor for the regeneration of oysters. The Harbor was toxic and nearly lifeless for more than 50 years until the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, which prohibited the dumping of waste and raw sewage. Since then the water quality in New York harbor has continued to improve and today the Billion Oyster Project is on a mission to restore one billion oysters throughout the harbor. 

Billion Oyster Project (BOP) will be producing oysters for deployment at a number of sites around New York Harbor, including the Upper Harbor (Brooklyn Bridge Park), the East River, the Hudson River (Hudson River Park and the Manhattan Cruise Terminal at Pier 88), and the Bronx River (Soundview Park). BOP staff engages schools, community-based organizations, and the general public in the restoration of their local marine environment.

  • Support oyster hatchery operations aiming to produce and introduce nearly 38 million juvenile oysters in NYC waters. Adult oysters are capable of improving water quality by filtering 1 gallon of water every hour.
  • Contribute to the restoration of 8 acres of oyster reefs across six restoration sites throughout NYC.
  • Support shell collection in NYC, recycling around 10,000 lbs of shells per week at full capacity with 75 restaurants, or 4,000 lbs of shell per week at reduced capacity with only 30 restaurants due to Covid-19 limitations.
  • Advance experiential education in classrooms, via Zoom field visits, and at BOP field stations. STEM learning focuses on oyster monitoring, seining and water quality testing, and harbor ecology exploration for 150-200 students.
  • Support oyster reef restoration and public education programs at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
  • (Rescheduled for 2021): Install three oyster reefs, containing a total of 250,000 oysters, and five oyster gabions, wire cages filled with 1.9 million recycled oyster shells.
  • Test a new restoration technique and advance the understanding of the most effective oyster restoration methods for New York Harbor.
  • Raise awareness about the local marine environment through outreach to local schools, community-based organizations, elected officials, and the general public, in partnership with the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, the One°15 Brooklyn Marina, and local community-based organizations.
  • Collect oyster shells from local restaurants to build new oyster reefs.
  • Students in the Aquaculture Program at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, a public high school on Governors Island, will spawn and grow oysters in the lab.
About Billion Oyster Project

Billion Oyster Project seeks to restore oyster reefs to New York Harbor through public education initiatives. By 2035, the goal is to have one billion live oysters that are distributed around 100 acres of reefs, making the Harbor once again a productive water body and reclaiming its title as the Big Oyster.

Header image photo credit: Katie Mosher/Billion Oyster Project

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