Millions of oysters used to clean up New York Harbor

The Billion Oysters Project is a mission created in 2003 to restore oyster reefs in New York Harbor.

Various studies show that each one can filter up to 230 liters of water per day. "When they eat, they suck up the water with their bodies and take from it what they need. The rest they deposit in the form of small pellets that fall to the bottom of the river," explains Meredith Comi, director of the project.

Millions of oysters are added to New York Harbor in an effort to clean up the Hudson River, to bring life back to the waterway through mollusks that often appear on menus in restaurants and bars throughout the city.

The important task is being carried out by 11 million oysters, which now lie beneath the surface of the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan.

“We are in New York City. It’s an urban landfill and there have been a lot of human impacts on our waters,” said Carrie Roble, vice president of estuaries and education for Hudson River Park. “We have 85 species of fish that depend on these waterways.” The millions of oysters are now hard at work filtering the water and providing food and shelter for other wildlife.

It’s too early to know the benefits of this particular project, but the team already knows that the oysters work and may have another purpose that may be more noticeable to humans: protection. “By their scale and, hopefully, by their future restoration, they protect our coastline. They actually slow storm surges and wave action,” Roble said.

Between Piers 26 and 34, the tops of the textured pilings and wooden beams, which serve as habitat for oysters, can be seen. Crews from the Billion Oyster Project and the New York State DEC helped place cages full of them.They are also using concrete structures called reef balls that have been seeded with juvenile oysters. All an effort to make the water cleaner and healthier for the animals that call it home, and for the city that depends on it.

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