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Restoration Program

NY/NJ Baykeeper has restored more than 3.5 MILLION oysters back to NY-NJ Harbor waters with 200,000 – 500,000 new oysters introduced annually through our oyster restoration program. 

Why Restore?

New York City used to be THE place to eat oysters! When the Dutch first arrived in Manhattan during the 17th century, the island was covered in oyster beds. But as New York grew as a city, so did the consumption of this popular mollusk. The oyster is now functionally extinct in the NY-NJ Harbor from rampant development, over-harvesting and pollution. We’re working to restore the oyster population for the multiple benefits this vital species provides. 

Oysters help keep water clean and and oyster reefs help protect the coastline. They are nature’s water filters– each one is able to clean up to 50 gallons of water a day! Oyster reefs also serve as speed bumps for waves during storms. Learn more about the oyster here. 

New Jersey

Oyster Restoration

NY/NJ Baykeeper produces juvenile oysters at the Aquaculture Facility at Naval Weapons Station Earle (NWSE). Here, oyster larvae attach, set and grow on shell substrate. Once the oysters “set” on shell, and grow for about two months, they are released onto our oyster reefs where they are monitored for growth and survivorship.

In November 2017, NY/NJ Baykeeper found that its oysters were naturally reproducing on its reef for the first time. The millions of oysters NY/NJ Baykeeper placed on the reef had grown and spawned, resulting in larvae settling back on the reef –all indicators of a healthy habitat.

Living Shoreline

The oyster is now functionally extinct in the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary due to rampant development, over-harvesting and pollution. NY/NJ Baykeeper is working to restore the oyster population for the many benefits this vital species provides, including protecting the coastline against erosion, serving as speed bumps for waves during storms, acting as natural water filters and adding a habitat for marine life.

In 2016, NY/NJ Baykeeper and the Rutgers University Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability (CUES) installed a 0.91-acre Living Shoreline adjacent to Ware Creek at NWSE using oysters set on vertical oyster reef structures, or castles, which can reduce storm energies and soil erosion.

Addressing climate change and sea level rise is important now more than ever. Check out the Regional Plan’s Association December 2016 report here: Under Water: How Sea Level Rise Threatens the Tri-State Region.

Why Our Oysters are Grown at Gun Point

In 2010, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) banned shellfish research, restoration, and education projects in “contaminated” waters; waters classified as “Restricted” or “Prohibited” for shellfish harvest. This essentially deems 99% of the NY-NJ Harbor off-limits for shellfish restoration. We were forced to remove our projects in Keyport Harbor and the Navesink River along Red Bank. Today we are working with NJDEP to improve Shellfish Rules that will strengthen our coasts. In 2010, we formed a unique partnership with Naval Weapons Station Earle (NWSE)  to execute oyster restoration work. NWSE is under 24/7 security, eliminating poaching risks. Learn more about the ban and next steps here. 

New York

NY/NJ Baykeeper manages a 1-acre oyster reef at Soundview Park in the Bronx River. The reef provides substrate for new oysters to attach to, increases habitat in the area, and encourages natural recruitment for a self-sustaining reef. The “Scientific Reef” portion provides space for scientific experiments. The “Community Reef” is a small sub-plot within the large reef, providing a unique opportunity for eco-volunteerism in the NYC metro area.  Volunteers are able to get in the water and observe oyster biology and ecology up close, monitoring survivorship, growth, and biodiversity.

If you are interested in volunteering at Soundview Park, click here to add your name to our volunteer list! 

Click here to check out the oyster restoration NY-NJ Harbor Estuary mapping tool.

Click here to watch Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves,” featuring Meredith Comi, NY/NJ Baykeeper’s Restoration Program Director.

NY/NJ Baykeeper’s Restoration Program successes are made possible by our funders:

NJ Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership
The Nature Conservancy
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Marta Heflin Foundation
Victoria Foundation
Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
Proud Pour
United States Navy