- Title: New York installs beds made of recycled toilets to grow oysters
- Date: 5th October 2016
- Summary: SANTO ANDRE, BAHIA, BRAZIL (FILE - DECEMBER 14, 2013) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF RESTAURANT WORKER PULLING OYSTERS FROM TANK INVERNESS CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (FILE - NOVEMBER 30, 2012) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF STILL PHOTOGRAPH OF OYSTER REEF IN OYSTER FARM STILL PHOTOGRAPH OF WORKER PULLING OYSTERS FROM REEF
- Embargoed: 20th October 2016 20:35
- Keywords: Oysters Jamaica Bay Billion Oysters Project recycled toilets
- Location: FAR ROCKAWAY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES / VARIOUS
- City: FAR ROCKAWAY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES / VARIOUS
- Country: USA
- Topics: Environment
- Reuters ID: LVA00552QCH97
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: New York Harbor, once blanketed with a thriving population of oysters is no more.
A combination of over harvesting, dredging and pollution have devastated their numbers, making them functionally extinct decades ago in the New York City area.
Now, the city's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in cooperation with New York Harbor Foundation's Billion Oyster Project aims to bring back the species known to be a key component of a healthy marine ecosystem.
On Tuesday (October 4) ships carrying hundreds of tons of oyster and clam shells and porcelain pieces from recycled toilets were in Jamaica Bay, dumping the materials to form a layer of hard material over the existing soft sediments, which will provide a surface for small oysters to attach and grow.
"Those are receiver beds that is just a blank slate that is about 8,000 square feet on the bottom," explained John McLaughlin, managing director at the city's department of environmental protection.
"Then there is a donor reef … that contains about 50,000 adult oysters. And next summer, next spring they will spawn and we hope to get that recruitment to land," he added.
In September, the department installed the so called "donor reef" with adult oysters a few hundred feet away. Come next summer, the hope is that their larvae will float to the nearby nursery bed installed on Tuesday, to form a new reef.
McLaughlin explained that the city decided to use porcelain from recycled toilets as studies suggest that it is a possible alternative to clam shells, the preferred surface by oyster larvae to latch on to.
"So instead of placing this material into a landfill we decided to put it to a good use, and it's a resource here," he said.
According to Pete Malinowski of the Billion Oyster Project, the DEP's partner in this pilot initiative, over harvesting was one of the key culprits.
"It used to have a lot of oyster reefs, we ate them is what happened to all of them. So by over harvesting we removed all the native oyster reefs from New York harbor," he told Reuters.
Today no natural oyster reef exists in Jamaica Bay.
According to a 2011 Nature Conservancy Report, 85 percent of oyster reefs-which provide habitat for sea life and feeding grounds for migratory birds have been lost around the world.
Oysters also help maintain water quality by filtering water. An adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, and can play a vital role in stabilizing shorelines.
"Oyster reefs provide a lot of the same services that coral reefs do. They filter the water, provide food and habitat for other animals, they stabilize the bottom, they increase water clarity and they can stabilize the shoreline which is really important in Jamaica Bay, with all these soft edges," Malinowski said.
The pilot project is funded with a $1 million dollar (USD) grant from the U.S. Department of Interior, while the city's DEP is contributing $375,000.
Once the installation is complete, water quality in the vicinity of the beds will be monitored to test the reef's filtering capacities.
Next year the beds will be evaluated for the recruitment of new oysters, which the department stressed are not for human consumption.
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