Restoring New York harbor with a billion oysters

A local New York City nonprofit is working to make the region a shellfish haven after decades of declining oyster populations

February 17, 2023
Twenty-five people stand around some tables on a sandy pier in Brooklyn, New York. Behind the tables is a park ringed with some trees.
Citizen scientists measure and tally oysters on a Brooklyn pier on October 22, 2022. Reseeding oysters in New York Harbor can improve water quality and biodiversity. [Credit: Timmy Broderick]

Oysters have been a New York City culinary staple for centuries. Hundreds of years ago, when the Indigenous Lenape people lived in the region prior to European colonization, the harbor teemed with shellfish. But by the early 20th century, pollution, urban development and overharvesting erased nearly 350 square miles of oyster beds.

Fast forward to the present, and a nonprofit is now working to revive the once-mighty bivalve. The Billion Oyster Project started seeding the harbor with oysters in 2010 to improve water quality, increase marine biodiversity and boost shoreline protection. Its efforts have been successful: The group is on track to meet its one-billion oyster goal by 2035.

In October, Timmy Broderick spent an afternoon measuring oysters with other New Yorkers to learn more about the project and the harbor’s marine life. 

You can also listen to this episode on Apple PodcastsSpotify or Stitcher.

About the Author

Timmy Broderick

Timmy writes about energy and the environment with a particular focus on the local-level impacts of climate change. You can find their work in Slate, Scientific American, and the Christian Science Monitor. An Ohio native, Timmy spends their free time eating ice cream and plotting bike trips.



M Chowdhury says:

Very interesting. We love oysters, but i didn’t realize there were oysters in LI sound. I’ll have to check them out!

Ben says:

Very cool article! I love that this project is succeeding!! Thank you for writing this.

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