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.
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