Boating NZ - - Boat World -

Abil­lion oys­ters are be­ing seeded in New York’s har­bour in a bid to clean up its no­to­ri­ously dirty wa­ter.

An or­gan­i­sa­tion called – well, The Bil­lion Oys­ter Project (BOP) – is work­ing with hun­dreds of part­ners, schools and vol­un­teers to build new oys­ter reefs in the har­bour. The project – launched four years ago – has so far ‘de­ployed’ 28 mil­lion oys­ters and they are al­ready hav­ing an im­pact.

“The wa­ter,” says Katie Mosher, BOP’S restora­tion man­ager, “has never been bet­ter in 150 years. We’ve def­i­nitely no­ticed an im­prove­ment when put­ting oys­ters on the bot­tom. There’s more fish, more crabs. It hap­pens right away.”

Oys­ters, she adds, are ecosys­tem engi­neers which cre­ate a 3D reef habi­tat. “It’s full of dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes of oys­ters that other species love to hunt in and live in and to search for prey. Oys­ters fil­ter and clean the wa­ter when they breathe, mak­ing it clearer. This en­ables light to pen­e­trate more eas­ily to the bot­tom and al­lows more plants to grow on the seabed.”

The mol­luscs re­cy­cle nu­tri­ents and ni­tro­gen, and can even mit­i­gate the en­ergy of large waves, re­duc­ing flood­ing and pre­vent­ing ero­sion dur­ing storms or hur­ri­canes.

New York once sup­ported a flour­ish­ing oys­ter pop­u­la­tion – but it was driven to near ex­tinc­tion in the early 1900s, a vic­tim of over­fish­ing, pol­lu­tion and sewage. Ma­rine life slowly re­turned fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the 1972 Clean Wa­ter Act which out­lawed the dump­ing of un­treated waste­water and garbage.

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