Tag Archives: oysters

Can the 1 Billion Oyster Project clean New York Harbor? We’ll soon know.

logosStudents of the New York Harbor School’s Professional Diving and Vessel Operations Programs work together to create a billion oyster reef and monitor how it impacts the harbor. The school’s ambitious 1 Billion Oyster Project goal is to introduce 1 billion oysters into New York Harbor, where they will clean the water and create much needed habitat for the restoration of harbor health and a variety of aquatic species.

The program is also going to give huge numbers of students an appreciation for the water that surrounds their city and prepare many for specialized careers that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. Aquatic Program Director Pete Malinowski, explains:

The port employs 300,000 people and only 12% of them went to public school in New York City, so there’s a fundamental disconnect between young people in the city and the water.

The school is situated on Governor’s Island, but Wall Street Journal producer Jeff Bush visited the teams on the water, at the site of an oyster reef they are monitoring. The school’s Co-Founder and President, Murray Fisher, told Bush that as each adult oyster, “filters a gallon of water an hour,” with a billion oysters, “the standing volume of water in New York Harbor could be filtered every 3 days.”

The Big Oyster bookMark Kurlansky’s book The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell tells about the rise and fall of New York Harbor’s health in relationship to the oyster. According to Kurlansky, all we needed to do to sustain the health of New York Harbor was, continue throwing discarded oyster shells back into the water – because the breakdown of their shells will feed the growth of living oysters. Maybe we’ll be smarter this time around, taking our cue from the success of communities like Olympia, WA.

Maliownski teaches that being a keystone species, oysters “grow on top of each other and build their own habitat.” Oysters attach to each other to create large reefs which in turn, become environments for other species of aquatic life. “In NY Harbor they were the backbone of aquatic life,” Malinowski remarks.

Hopefully, the time is coming soon when they will be again.

Black Gulf Fisherman – Struggling Mightily

In his August 28 New York Times article, Trymaine Lee reports,

Way down in the delta, just south of the Belle Chasse Ferry at Beshel’s Marina here, black men with work-worn hands and several generations of fishing in their blood sat around on old milk crates, hoping for a piece of the oil cleanup action that seems to have bypassed their little stretch of the bayou.

Nearly all of them have taken BP’s courses on oil cleanup, but few said they had been called to work; their little skiffs remain moored and forlorn, tied side-by-side like wretched sardines.

“The little guy loses again,” one of them lamented.

There was Hurricane Katrina five years ago. And now the great spill.

But even before those two blows, the fishermen in Pointe a la Hache and other small, historically African-American fishing towns and villages that dot the east bank of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, have long had to fight hard for every dollar, every oyster and every opportunity they could drag out of the bayou.

The Huffington Post adds,

But ever since the BP oil spill back in 2010, their hauls have gotten lighter and their hopes and prayers a bit dimmer. The seafood industry and the livelihood of those who make their money off the side of boats is collapsing beneath them, fishermen said.

“We don’t have millions of dollars sitting in the bank where we can go do something else. We live and die on the seafood industry. This is our culture,” said Byron Encalade, president of the Louisiana Oystermen Association. “This is how we live.”

The oysters in many beds haven’t reproduced, he said. And early reports from shrimpers said the outlook for this season doesn’t look good, if today’s catch is any indication.

Encalade blames the 87-day oil spill in the Gulf and the dispersants used by BP to thin the oil caked on the water for blighting the sea life here.

“I don’t know where this concept of ‘Everything is alright and they are doing what they are supposed to do’ came from,” he said. “These people are suffering down here, and I don’t think they have the slightest idea of how these communities are surviving. But they’re doing it on the back of Catholic Charities, nonprofits and each other.”

Encalade said BP’s public relations machine kicked into high gear from the start of the disaster, but he and others in the Delta know all too well how devastating the spill has been.