New York City used to be THE place to eat oysters! When the Dutch first arrived in Manhattan during the 17th century, the island was covered in oyster beds. But as New York grew as a city, so did the consumption of this popular mollusc. The oyster is now functionally extinct in the NY-NJ Harbor from rampant development, over-harvesting and pollution. We’re working to restore the oyster population for the multiple benefits this vital species provides, including protecting the coastline against erosion, serving as speed bumps for waves during storms, acting as natural water filters and adding a habitat for marine life.
Oysters help keep water clean and oyster reefs help protect the coastline. They are nature’s water filters; each one is able to clean up to 50 gallons of water a day. Addressing the climate crisis and sea level rise is important now more than ever.
To date, our Coastal Restoration Program has
New Oysters per year
Oysters to NY/NJ Harbor Waters
EcoVolunteers to our Bronx River oyster reef
NJ Oyster Restoration
NY/NJ Baykeeper cultivates juvenile oysters at the Aquaculture Facility at Naval Weapons Station Earle (NWSE) facility, where the oyster larvae are grown and then released onto NY/NJ Baykeeper’s oyster reefs in Raritan Bay and monitored for growth and survivorship. Alongside monitoring survivorship and growth, NY/NJ Baykeeper’s Restoration Team monitors water quality and studies biodiversity around the reef.
Shoreline erosion is a natural process but threatening NJ’s coastal resiliency. In 2016, NY/NJ Baykeeper and the Rutgers University Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability (CUES) installed a 0.91 acre Living Shoreline adjacent to Ware Creek at Naval Weapons Station Earle (NWSE) using oysters set on vertical oyster reef structures, or castles, which can reduce storm energies and soil erosion.
In November 2017, NY/NJ Baykeeper found that its oysters were naturally reproducing on its reef for the first time. The millions of oysters NY/NJ Baykeeper placed on the reef had grown and spawned, resulting in larvae settling back on the reef –all indicators of a healthy habitat.
NJDEP and Shellfish Research and Restoration
In 2010, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) banned shellfish research, restoration, and education projects in “contaminated” waters; waters classified as “Restricted” or “Prohibited” for shellfish harvest. This essentially deems 99% of the NY-NJ Harbor off-limits for shellfish restoration. We were forced to remove our projects in Keyport Harbor and the Navesink River along Red Bank. Today we are working with NJDEP to improve Shellfish Rules that will strengthen our coasts. In 2010, we formed a unique partnership with Naval Weapons Station Earle (NWSE) to execute oyster restoration work. NWSE is under 24/7 security, eliminating poaching risks. Access our restoration mapping tool here.
Soundview Park Oyster Reef
NY/NJ Baykeeper manages a 1-acre oyster reef at Soundview Park in the Bronx River. The reef provides substrate for new oysters to attach to, increases habitat in the area, and encourages natural recruitment for a self-sustaining reef. The “Scientific Reef” portion provides space for scientific experiments. The “Community Reef” is a small sub-plot within the large reef, providing a unique opportunity for eco-volunteerism in the NYC metro area. Volunteers are able to get in the water and observe oyster biology and ecology up close, monitoring survivorship, growth, and biodiversity.