Billion Oyster Project


2019, 2020


Governors Island, NYC


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 Bush Terminal Park, a lagoon adjacent to an old dump site, and involve the surrounding community in Brooklyn 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 Bush Terminal Park lagoons and the surrounding Brooklyn community.
  • Expand the initial oyster reef at this site, adding 135,000 oysters and 230 square feet of reef habitat while testing a new restoration technique and advancing 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.
  • 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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