Billion Oyster Project


2019, 2020


Brooklyn, NY


Nature’s Water Filters: Restoring Oyster Reefs 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.

This project will restore oysters in Brooklyn Bridge Park, a popular park that is ideal for attracting public interest in the oyster reef restoration work to teach them about the benefits that restoring oysters can have on the health of New York Harbor. Additionally, the Billion Oyster Project staff will engage schools, community-based organizations, and the general public in the restoration of their local marine environment.

  • Support oyster reef restoration and public education programs at the Brooklyn Bridge Park.
  • 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 One15 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 New York Harbor School, a public high school on Governors Island, will spawn and grow oysters in the lab, build the reef, and monitor its growth.
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 the most productive waterbody in the North Atlantic and reclaiming its title as the oyster capital of the world.

Header image photo credit: Katie Mosher/Billion Oyster Project

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