In New York City, the Billion Oyster Project was launched in 2014 by Murray Fischer and Peter Malinowski. At their headquarters at the Harbor School on Governors Island, BOP houses their laboratory and runs a shell recycling program where 8,000 lbs of shell per week are collected from over 70 restaurants and cured in giant mounds to be used in constructed reef systems. Public school students learn to operate boats, spawn oysters, create reef systems, and monitor restoration sites. BOP is currently the nursery for more than 30 oyster restoration projects in the New York Harbor Estuary. Volunteers help assemble reef structures and maintain and monitor the community reefs program. Even in the most polluted waters of the harbor, participants find bryozoans, polychaete worms, anemones, tunicates, and blue crabs on the oyster cages. The estuary was once thought to be one of the most biologically productive, diverse, and dynamic environments on the planet, with native oysters central to this thriving ecosystem. Today, projects to revive the oyster population are focused on restoring habitat and buffering future storms. These experiments started by piloting locations for oyster reefs in Soundview Park in the Bronx. After a 1-acre pilot showed natural recruitment in 2011, it was identified as one of several throughout the estuary where oysters have been reintroduced by the Oyster Restoration Research Partnership, a collaboration that includes the Hudson River Foundation, NY/NJ Baykeeper, and BOP. Today, Soundview is one of the largest restored oyster habitats in the estuary and the lessons learned there have informed other pilot projects including at the former Tappan Zee Bridge and the new Living Breakwaters, designed by SCAPE, and being built today in Staten Island.
This video animates Packard Jenning’s illustration of the Billion Oyster Project Reef Life Cycle in Alison Sant’s book, From the Ground Up: Local Efforts to Create Resilient Cities (Island Press, 2022). Music: “Up and Up” by Peel Dream Magazine on Slumberland Records.