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Before the 20th century, New York Harbor was home to hundreds of thousands of acres of oyster reefs, reportedly half of the world’s oysters. The bivalves were threatened by pollution, and in the early 1900s, typhoid and cholera outbreaks traced to oysters from Staten Island caused many oyster farms to be shut down. Since, oysters presence and role on the harbor has almost been erased from our collective memory.
For the past year and a half, New York Harbor School has been working to reestablish oysters in NY harbor by launching an ambitious project to rebuild our lost oyster reefs – growing colonies of filter-feeder bivalves that will eventually reduce aquatic waste and clear the water of some pollutants.
From International Business Times: As an oyster filter-feeds by drawing water through its gills, it traps a lot of particles – both plankton and pollution. The bits it can’t eat are mixed with bunch of mucus, ejected, and settle down to the floor as sediment instead of remaining suspended in the water. A single adult oyster can process nearly 50 gallons of water a day.
Murray Fisher, founder of the New York Harbor School said, “We need an army of talented, skilled, interested students to help restore a degraded ecosystem.”
Instructor Pete Malinowski helps students from New York Harbor School place live oysters on Soundview Reef.
credit: Ildiko Reisenbigler for USACE
From Mission Blue: The New York Harbor School, a public school located on Governor’s Island with a focus on water job skills and environmental stewardship, recently joined the Oyster Restoration Research Partnership. Together with about 20 partners, the high school is working to rebuild the Hudson River’s historical oyster reefs.
Watch this video to learn more about the New York Harbor School, and their oyster reef revitalization project.
The New York Harbor School project which began with only a few hundred oysters, has grown to five reefs around New York, Governor’s Island, Staten Island, Soundview, Bay Ridge Flats, and Hastings.
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee