Helping Oysters Thrive in the Bronx
Oysters, we just can’t get enough of you. The binary mollusks have been ridiculously on trend for some time now, with oyster farming in New York on the rise and the oyster food craze showing no sign of dissipating. But as delicious as oysters are, there’s much more to them than their taste.
In the Bronx, the NY/NJ Baykeeper nonprofit has spent the past seven years working to restore oysters to the Bronx River. No, you can’t eat them, but helping the oysters thrive makes the river better for all of us.
“We’re bringing back the oysters for ecological purposes,” said Dr. Allison Fitzgerald, oysters program research assistant. “As we’ve seen more oysters, we’ve seen more fish, crabs, worms, snails and a lot of other organisms use the reef.”
The reef is the Soundview Park Oyster Reef. In 2010, the reef was one of six constructed throughout NYC waters to mimic natural oyster reefs while allowing for regular monitoring of oyster development. It’s basically rubble, with mollusk shells on top.
Oysters filter out pollutants in the water, create habitat for other marine life and help to prevent coastal flooding and erosion. Their ability to thrive is an important measure of the health of a waterway. In the 1600s, New York City waters were home to 220,000 acres of oyster reefs, according to the Billion Oyster Project, but overfishing and poor water quality decimated the oyster population. For more than a decade a number of organizations in NY have been working to restore the oysters. The reef in the Bronx is the largest of the ones constructed.
“We lost some due to shells washing away and sediment floating, but it’s been really productive,” Fitzgerald said.
While some years the NY/NJ Baykeeper adds farm-raised baby oysters, known as spat, the aim is for the reef to be self-sustaining, with a little help from Fitzgerald and maybe you.
Weather permitting, May through October Fitzgerald and a group of volunteers monitor the reef to see if it’s gaining or losing ground, to watch how the oysters interact with their environment and to measure the oysters for growth.
Saturday, June 24- 5pm meeting time
Monday, June 26- 7am meeting time
Wednesday, June 28- 9am meeting time