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Oysters to the Rescue

By Rupert Deedes

The New York area is seeing multiple oyster-related projects: The first aims to use oysters to prevent shore erosion and protect shore property, the second aiming to use oysters to clean polluted water.

The Town of Oyster Bay has been “seeding” millions of oysters grown in tanks into Oyster Bay, Mill Neck Creek, and Cold Spring Harbor over several years.

“A single oyster filters up to 50 gallons of water a day,” stated Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joe Saladino.

Now the Town of North Hempstead is launching its own oyster breeding and seeding pilot program to re-seed oysters into Manhasset Bay.

“This helps our environment and also our residences and businesses by driving and promoting economic development,” stated North Hempstead Supervisor Jen DeSena. “I am proud that we are taking this major step to make an investment in the health of Manhasset Bay.”

North Hempstead Councilman David Adhami, himself an avid boater, agrees that “Oysters help to filter our harbors clean, and provide a more pristine environment for all our precious marine life.”

In Lacey Township, New Jersey, 150 feet of beach had eroded since 1995. To prevent further shore erosion, the American Littoral Society, with a grant of $1 million the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, filled hundreds of steel wire cageswith rocks and whelk shells and positioned them in rows along the shoreline of Barnegat Bay.

Tiny baby oysters, called “spat,” are attached to whelk shells and placed in the bay near the existing cages to further stabilize the shoreline.

The oysters are doing their job. Residents say that recently, a strong east wind caused waves to rise beyond the oysters, but between the oyster cages and the shoreline, the water was calmer, with waves gently touching the shoreline rather than pounding against it.

Oysters offer an additional benefit: they help improve water quality. Cleaning polluted water is the goal of the second project, run by the “Billion Oyster Project,” a nonprofit with a mission to make its name a reality in New York Harbor by 2035. The project is funded with $1.5 million from the Hudson River Park Trust and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Between July and December, 2021: 11.2 million juvenile oysters were added to a section of the Hudson River off the coast of Lower Manhattan, where they are helping to filter the water and create habitats for other marine life.

The newly deployed oysters are attached to more than 200 sub-tidal habitats, including metal orbs, cages and mesh wraps, in the water between Piers 26 and 34, off TriBeCa. Scientists report that the water quality in the area has been steadily improving, and that the oysters are playing a key role in this improvement.


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