APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
- Oyster shell collection: A critical element of any oyster restoration plan is returning enough substrate to the bottom of the Harbor to allow larval recruitment and a self-sustaining population. Hundreds of restaurants in New York City serve oysters daily. Harbor School has already developed a volunteer shell collection program at two area restaurants, which with more student workers and volunteer restaurants will increase to remove over one million pounds from the city waste stream annually.
- Spat-on-shell production: A hatchery, greenhouse and remote setting facility are being built this fall in the school's Marine Science and Technology Center. Students there will grow enough spat-on-shell to provide the necessary infrastructure for producing up to 100 million oysters per year.
- Reef construction: As part of the ORRP, six reefs were constructed in 2010. These will be expanded and new reefs permitted. Reefs are constructed using recycled restaurant shell with Harbor School spat. Harbor School student divers place spat-on-shell on the reefs.
- Monitoring and research: To ensure the continued success of the project, reefs must be monitored. The six reefs provide critical information on where oysters survive and grow in the Harbor Estuary and important insight into how and where to construct future reefs. Harbor School students are conducting experiments on water quality and fish diversity and abundance around the reefs.
- Curriculum development: In order for Harbor School students to perform the above duties, Career and Technical education programs and curriculum must be developed or borrowed and adapted from other institutions.
Professional development: Teachers must be trained or recruited for professional expertise in the full array of Career and Technical education skills and knowledge related to aquaculture, including permitting, scientific research, hatchery management, shellfish aquaculture, ocean engineering, vessel operations, vessel maintenance and SCUBA diving.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
Using the information gathered from the first two years of the ORRP, Harbor School plans to increase production capacity to 10,000,000 oysters per year by 2015. The project has an indefinite life span as the partners move towards the goal of a self-sustaining oyster population in New York Harbor which is estimated to be one billion live oysters. These oysters will be capable of filtering the entire, standing volume of New York Harbor (74 billion gallons) every three days.
Harbor School's oyster hatchery will serve as an educational center where Harbor School students will be the experts in New York Harbor ecology and will serve as docents to visiting public - last year Governors Island had 550,000 visitors. The school is positioned at the geographic center of the Harbor and its unique mission makes a perfect match for this project. Not only are students given the responsibility for the Harbor-wide restoration project, they are taught relevant on-water job skills. The Billion Oyster Project provides a platform for all Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes. Aquaculture students will produce the animals and perform the scientific monitoring on the reefs. Scientific SCUBA divers will dive to build and monitor the reefs. Vessel Operations students will drive Harbor School vessels to the Reef. Ocean Engineering students will design and operate underwater remote operated vehicles to use in reef monitoring. Marine Science and Research students will design and perform experiments using the reefs as research platforms. By increasing Harbor School's oyster production, these classes will be mobilized and allowed to collaborate on a long term, relevant environmental restoration project. This takes learning out of the classroom and into the harbor. Students learn by doing and rely on each other to perform the various tasks that together, make the project successful. Students who feel valuable and to whom real responsibility are given perform better in school and learn important problem-solving lessons that make them more successful in college.
New York City is undergoing an ecological renaissance and leading the way towards becoming one of the most sustainable large cities in the world. Yet its Harbor - the geographic and biological system that is responsible for this city's founding, its growth and its sustenance - has long been neglected even though it has a key role to play in the region's transformation. For thousands of years, 300 square miles of oyster reefs dominated the rich estuary ecosystem that surrounded New York City. These oysters are virtually gone. Harbor School will play the aquaculture arm in this restoration effort: growing the oysters, planting the oysters, assisting in permitting and monitoring the reefs.
Harbor School's oyster project began in the spring of 2008 with a small nursery system and 100,000 oysters on Governors Island in New York Harbor. Over the next three years, the school's oyster growing capacity increased by a factor of ten. In 2010, Harbor School joined the Oyster Restoration and Research Project (ORRP) and produced oysters, as well as student workers, boats and SCUBA divers for reef building.
New York Harbor School currently operates the City's only dedicated shellfish hatchery, remote setting and grow-out facility, with a total combined production capacity of up to 500,000 oysters annually. The facility produces algae for feedstock, larvae, spat-on-shell, and juvenile oysters for transplant to middle school oyster gardens, nurseries, and experimental reef sites. To meet increasing demand for these programs, NY Harbor School with support of NY Harbor Foundation aims to scale up its hatchery production capacity to approximately 10 million spat-on-shell oysters annually. To do this, Harbor Foundation is constructing the new Marine Science and Technology (MAST) Center to house the School's expanded aquaculture facilities. While the building itself is scheduled to be completed by April 2013, the Foundation is currently seeking public, private, and/or institutional support to equip and manage the hatchery and remote-setting facility at a cost of $1,187,244 over five years.