Turning to oysters for ecology

A dozen New York City high school students waded in the mouth of the Bronx River early yesterday morning within view of Rikers Island and as planes flew into LaGuardia overhead.

They tossed live oysters, one by one, into the water. The oysters will float down, and, scientists hope, attach themselves to artificial reefs that have been created.

The students are part of a program by the New York City Parks Department and other groups to reintroduce Eastern oysters to a native habitat where they once flourished: the waters surrounding New York.

In the mid-19th century, oysters were abundant throughout New York harbor. But over-harvesting and pollution nearly wiped the entire population out.

The Bronx River reef is one of six others in the city, in Jamaica Bay, off Governors Island and elsewhere. If the oysters are able to survive, the reefs will provide shelter for fish and crabs and improve the biodiversity of New York harbor, said experts.

“It’s not just oysters,” said Elizabeth Severino, 20, a teacher who helped place the oysters. “When you see aquatic life and wading birds here, like the great blue heron, it signifies the area is becoming healthy again.”

Not safe to eat

Even if the oysters do take hold, don’t expect to see them served alongside Blue Points. The oysters grow in water that is contaminated when raw sewage empties into the bay during heavy rain.


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