Oyster Reef
Sorting Oysters Young watermen are redefining the character and approach to working the Chesapeake Bay. © Jason Houston

Stories in New York

Billion Oyster Project Partnership

The Nature Conservancy and Billion Oyster Project partner to restore the health of New York Harbor.

The Nature Conservancy's dedication to marine protection in New York is longstanding. The Conservancy launched its first U.S. marine project in New York off the shores of Long Island and currently operates 100 marine projects worldwide. The Nature Conservancy New York City Program began its Healthy Harbor Project to protect and restore the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary to meet the biggest challenges facing people and nature. 

Why Oysters?
  • Globally, a staggering 85 percent of oyster reefs have been lost in the last 200 years. Factors including pollution, disease, overharvesting, drought and habitat loss have made oyster reefs the single most imperiled marine habitat on the planet. In fact, oyster beds once covered most of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, but today’s populations are less than 0.01% what they once were in New York Harbor.
  • Oysters are incredible water filters. One adult oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day; a healthy one-acre reef filters approximately 24 million gallons of water daily. Beyond filtering water, oysters create habitat for other animals, which is necessary to a robust harbor ecosystem.
What We Are Doing

Since 2016, The Nature Conservancy has partnered with the Billion Oyster Project whose objective is to restore one billion live oysters to New York Harbor and engage thousands of New York City public school students in the process. To date, the organization has planted over 25 million oysters, and collected and recycled 800,000 pounds of shell. The Nature Conservancy provides scientific and technical expertise to characterize impacts, understand challenges, and improve outcomes. Together, the organizations work to improve the health of New York Harbor.

Comprehensive evaluations of ecological restoration projects can take many years. Yet initial research is beginning to provide new and useful insights into the performance of restoration across the Harbor. The Nature Conservancy released the New York City Oyster Monitoring Report: 2016-2017 in May 2018. Our work provides a greater understanding of shellfish restoration in an urban setting and will be shared with restoration practitioners in New York City and experts in coastal cities across the globe. It is only the beginning of this effort, and long-term research and restoration is critical to the health of New York Harbor and our communities.

What You Can Do

You can support this work by making a secure online donation to The Nature Conservancy in New York.