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Sustaining a population with the Billion Oyster Project in New York

Written by Stephen Fleming, EF Academy New York
Head of the Science Department

I am proud to be the supervisor of the Environmental and Sustainability Club, mainly because of the great student leaders who founded, motivate and manage this group. Our goal is to show EF students that science can be research, service, and wonder.

One way that our department focuses on our goal of services is by partnering with the Billion Oyster Project (BOP) and volunteering our time to help them reach their goal of restoring one billion oysters to the New York harbor and surrounding estuaries by 2035.

In the early 1900s, New York City was the oyster capital of the world. However, due to pollution and over-harvesting, the numbers declined until eventually, no oysters could be found in the New York Harbor and Hudson River. In 1972 the Clean Water Act was established and the Hudson River began to rebound to its previous water quality levels. Fish, whales, dolphins, and seals have returned to our waters—a testament to the effectiveness of the Clean Water Act. While the river’s health rebounded, however, the oysters could not repopulate the Hudson River themselves.

You may be wondering: Why are oysters so important? First, they are natural filters, cleaning 75 gallons of water per day as they draw in plankton (their food source) and sediment from the water column. Second, oysters build impressive reefs, providing nurseries for a variety of fish including striped bass, herring, and even the lined seahorse. These smaller fish attract larger sport fish, marine mammals, and seabirds, ensuring the health and balance of the ecosystem.

The BOP’s goal is lofty. How can one organization possibly restore one billion oysters?
The answer is simple: through citizen science.

Twelve of our club members traveled to Governor’s Island, home of BOP, to help them build oyster research stations (ORS), small cages that will house 10 live young oysters. These ORS’s are a vital tool to establish small colonies of oysters as well as monitor water conditions and oyster growth. The ORS’s will be delivered to schools, citizen scientists and other organizations to help reach the goal of one billion oysters by 2035.

Check out the next generation of citizen scientists, as our EF students think globally by acting locally.

Billion Oyster Project

Billion Oyster Project

Billion Oyster Project

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