The Oysters of New York.The City of New York initiated by the New York Harbor Foundation unveiled the Billion Oyster project in September 2016. The project foresees the creation of 100 oyster reefs around the New York Harbor until 2030 to restore the 220,000 acres oyster beds in the 31-square-mile Jamaica Bay and repopulate the area with – ahhh – one billion oysters.
Initially the program supporters and students from the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School put about 50,000 oysters back in the water near Newark airport. The area includes portions of Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau County.
Spat-on-shell oysters – Crassostrea virginica – members of the bivalve family, used to be plentiful in New York’s waters, but due to over-harvesting and water pollution, they almost disappeared in the early 20th century.However, they are good and crucial for the environment as they take in enormous amounts of water – up to 50 gallons per day, metabolize life out of minerals, filter out pollutants, clear the dirty water, and consume algae. The algae flourish as a result of over nitrification. The oysters don’t consume nitrates from human effluent and intensive agriculture, but they reduce these algae. And they bring other sea dwellers back into the habitat such as anemones, crabs, anthropoids, fish, worms, and sponges.Currently the environment is quite unappealing for any kind of aquatic life and there is a caveat to the oysters. The mollusks want to attach themselves to grounding in order not to fall in the mud and organic material where they would otherwise perish.
The Billion Oyster project is to provide an anchor point for the new mollusk residents and revive the oyster population. A more balanced New York ecosystem will also support 91 fish species, 325 species of birds, and many reptile, amphibians, and small mammals. To create reefs for the oyster spat – fertilized eggs – the supporters use the recycled lavatory porcelain of 5,000 inefficient, old public school toilets, old clam and oyster shells and one million US dollars in grant funds from the US Department of Interior administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The 5,000 toilets are part of another initiative from a city-wide water conservation program. This project foresees that 40,000 old, inefficient toilets will be replaced with new, high-efficiency bathroom fixtures in 500 public school buildings throughout the five boroughs until 2019, conserving approximately 4 million gallons of water each school day.
The old clams and oyster shells come from restaurants around the city. They are collected by the project team.
Apart from the modern city’s responsibility to the environment, sustainability, rehabilitation and the conservation of wildlife, the re-population of oysters has also the purpose to protect the city from hurricanes. The grounding absorbs shock of incoming waves and protects the wetlands from erosion.But not to worry, “toilet-to-table” oysters won’t be available in New York’s restaurants for a while. The conservationists monitor the PH, salinity and other water properties, but the quality of the water is still a lot to be desired for.
Photo source: 1) courtesy of DEP, New York