Billion Oyster Project is on a mission to restore oyster reefs to New York Harbor through public education initiatives. Since its founding in 2014, Billion Oyster Project has planted 28 million oysters, engaging 6,000+ students, 9,000+ volunteers, and 70+ NYC restaurant partners who have donated 1,000,000+ pounds of shells.
Imagine New York Harbor as full of life as a tropical rainforest. It once was. Not only was New York City considered the oyster capital of the world, but thousands of marine species, from dolphins to seals to herring to scallops, were a regular part of the rhythms and beauty of what is now known as the East and Hudson Rivers. That changed after the start of the industrial revolution—by 1906, New York Harbor was nearly lifeless.
Now oyster reefs can be part of the solution to returning the city to what it once was—a rich, diverse, and abundant estuary. Oyster reefs provide habitat for thousands of marine species, filter water, and can help shield NYC shorelines from storm damage. We want to help our communities use oyster reefs to rebuild the Harbor’s complex ecosystem and then help them reap the benefits of the new opportunities for work, education, and recreation that will be created by a rejuvenated Harbor. Ocean planning empowers us to work efficiently and cost effectively to help our communities grow—both on shore and in the harbor.
New York Harbor is one of the busiest and commercially important waterways in the world. The Port of New York and New Jersey handles about 80 million metric tons of cargo valued at almost $200 billion every year, so communicating with our neighbors is imperative. Access to regional ocean data portals with all the data in one location from shipping lanes to other economically and ecologically important areas and habitats is essential. This information helps us understand how other stakeholders are using the harbor. As a result, we are able to site optimal locations to plant oyster beds without interfering with any other ocean user.
The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, a maritime high-school located on Governors Island, is the flagship school of Billion Oyster Project, and its students play an important role in Billion Oyster Project—growing oysters, designing and building reef structures, diving to monitor reefs, operating boats, performing marine biology research, and more.