The Billion Oyster Project (BOP) seeks to meaningfully engage the regions students, schools, restaurants, corporations, and entire communities in their local ecosystem by sharing the work of planting one billion live oysters in New York Harbor together.
Specifically, the work will include the following: oyster production, reef construction and monitoring, shell collection, public engagement, and BOP schools.
At the Harbor School Oyster Hatchery, and at various BOP reefs and nurseries, BOP will produce and restore 15 million oysters by making technical upgrades to hatchery systems and constructing two additional nurseries.
At various sites throughout the city, BOP will build and monitor two acres of oyster reef, planning to put one reef in each borough. BOP will also help build the institutional capacity at the Harbor School to grow and restore oysters. This work is through extensive partnerships on mitigation and resiliency projects with for profit, government, and non-profit partners.
BOP will increase oyster shell collection program to 75 restaurants and annual capacity to 1,000 cubic yards of shell. The restaurant relations team has developed a toolkit for restaurants that facilitates communicating the program to diners. This creates an incentive for restaurants above and beyond saving them money on carting costs.
BOP will engage the general public through hands-on science, volunteer days, and public programs on Governors Island and at community reef sites around the city. The centerpiece for this will be a public exhibit about oysters and Harbor ecology on Governors Island.
BOP Schools will create a teacher training program and Billion Oyster Project/Harbor literacy curriculum for middle school teachers in engaged schools and partner with 75 schools. Schools will be recruited, supported, and teachers trained through the work of the National Science Foundation funded Curriculum Community Enterprise for Restoration Science (BOP CCERS) partnership through which curricula, field science protocols, and online tools are being developed.
BOP has partnered with the Mayors Office to coordinate collaboration with city agencies.
Billion Oyster Project is currently investing in oyster production infrastructure as well as hiring a number of key staff to be able to meet the ambitious goals. The following schedule of deliverables over the next two years describes these improvements.
By July 2016, the hatchery on Governors Island will have a new water intake and treatment system that will allow for the sterilization of incoming Harbor Water and mechanical filtration to under a single micron. The addition of a custom designed tank system will allow the hatchery to produce up to 50 million eyed larvae per year during the 2016-17 hatchery season. Also by June, a custom-built aluminum oyster restoration vessel will be in use for restoration, research, and oyster cultivation.
By August 2016, pilot installations at three community reef sites and three additional nursery sites in Staten island and in Jamaica Bay will be installed. Throughout the summer, the new BOP exhibit on Governors Island will be retrofit and will be receiving visitors.
During the spring of 2017, the pilot community reef sites will be expanded to a full acre of restored habitat and the new remote setting system on Governors Island will be constructed and operational. This facility will allow for as many as 25 million hatchery-reared larvae to be set on shells and other types of reef infrastructure per year.
By June of 2018, BOP will have 75 active school partners. The shell collection program will be actively collecting from 75 restaurants and diverting 10 tons of shell per week away from landfills. Throughout the summer and fall of 2018, the area of restored habitat will be increased to two full acres. BOP will continue to recruit schools through its communications and training days on Governors Island and by developing the curriculum and online tools.
When Giovanni da Verrazzano first sailed into Lower New York Bay in 1524, he encountered one of the most bountiful, beautiful, and bioproductive places on the planet. This abundance had sustained the Lenape people for nearly 10,000 years.
500 years later, this region is now one of the most developed, industrialized, and densely populated places on earth. And though New York City is leading the way towards becoming one of the worlds most sustainable large cities, the actual ecosystem that is responsible for the citys founding and sustenance remains neglected, degraded, largely inaccessible, and unknown. In order to sustain life here for at least another 100 years, the local ecosystem must be reinserted into New Yorkers hearts and minds.
The keystone species of the New York Harbor estuary was the Eastern Oyster. These self-aggregating ecosystem engineers formed reefs that covered nearly 300 square miles of the Harbor and also provided habitat for a dizzying array of marine invertebrates, plants, fish, and marine mammals including dolphins, seals and whales. Those oysters and the entire oyster reef ecosystem they sustained are now gone. To restart the ecosystem so that it functions again requires an extraordinary level of human intervention as well as region-wide coordination and investment.
The Billion Oyster Project, an initiative of the New York Harbor Foundation, seeks to return functional oyster reefs to New York Harbor in an effort to restore water quality and ecosystem services, while in the process creating a restoration-based public school curriculum. In addition to being a phenomenal teaching tool, restoring one billion live, adult oysters into New York Harbor is a crucial step towards estuary restoration and proactive planning for global climate change.
Since the official launch of the Billion Oyster Project in April 2014, the New York Harbor Foundation has quickly established itself as the regions leader in oyster restoration. The New York Harbor Foundation has secured nearly half a dozen federal, state, and city contracts to grow oysters, build oyster reefs, study oyster reef restoration, and implement oyster restoration-focused curriculum in the largest public school system in the nation. Now, the Harbor Foundation finally has the capacity to take the holistic and system-wide approach necessary to ensure success.