Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today in announcing that the largest single installation of breeding oysters in New York City is now underway in Jamaica Bay. The project, a partnership with the New York Harbor Foundation's Billion Oyster Project, will see 50,000 adult and spat-on-shell oysters planted in new habitats made up of porcelain salvaged from nearly 5,000 old toilets collected by the city's water conservation program. The hope is that the new beds, once established, will help to restore healthy oyster populations in NYC waterways, improving resiliency and protecting coastal areas from the growing effects of climate change.
It is said that when Henry Hudson traversed the New York Harbor in 1609, he had to navigate around 220,000 acres of oyster reefs. But those bountiful mollusk populations were eventually decimated over the next 50 years due to pollution and over-harvesting. Recognizing the importance of oysters in filtering water, protecting shorelines from storm surge and erosion, and maintaining healthy marine ecosystems, The Billion Oyster Project was launched as an effort to restore one billion live oysters around 100 acres of reefs in New York City by the year 2030.
“Jamaica Bay is one of our city’s greatest natural assets and supports vital natural resources of regional significance,” said Dani el Zarrilli, Senior Director for Climate Policy and Programs and Chief Resilience Officer for the Office of the Mayor. “Today’s announcement is a critical step in the effort to restore healthy oyster populations in the bay. Not only are we protecting critical wetland habitats and demonstrating the resiliency dividend of natural infrastructure as we are preparing the waterfront communities around Jamaica Bay for the impacts of climate change, we are also building the next generation of environmental stewards. The City’s partnership with the Billion Oyster Project is a great example of the creative collaboration that is necessary to enhance the resiliency of the city’s waterways.”
This latest and largest installation of oysters in the Jamaica Bay consists of a central donor bed made up of 50,000 adult and spat-on-shell (larvae) oysters, and four smaller receiving beds made out of clam and oyster shells and porcelain shards from inefficient toilets collected through the citywide water conservation program. Once the adult oysters reach reproductive maturity, the hope is that they will spawn and release fertilized eggs that will attach themselves to the beds, establishing a self-sustaining colony.
“This oyster bed will serve multiple purposes – protecting our wetlands from erosion, naturally filtering our water and providing a home for our sea dwellers are just a few. More broadly, this oyster bed is a small but necessary step in our broader OneNYC commitment to create a more sustainable and more resilient City. I’d like to thank the Billion Oyster Project and the students of the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School for assisting us in the installation of this oyster bed,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Photos: NYC Water Flickr