High School students inspire amazing New York oyster re-seeding program

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/10/10/high-school-students-inspire-a.html


In 2010, when the school moved from Brooklyn to Governors Island, Malinowski grew his curriculum into a formal three-year vocational program in which students grow oysters; design, build and monitor reefs; and operate boats and perform marine biology research. “It became a way for all of our students to work together,” he says.

Mister, you got my vote.


Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes do that too. The problem is, what happens if fish start eating the oysters, and these highly-concentrated toxins start working their way up the food chain?

(Also, if the water ends up substantially less murky, increased sunlight in the depths can cause increased growth of aquatic vegetation – but perhaps that is less of a concern in the harbor.)


While its nice that the kid’s project found an additional source of shells.

The Billion Oyster project has existed for a decade and has been seeding oysters and rebuilding reefs with shells since the start. Cornell cooperative extension has been running projects like this around NY since the early 90’s, and essentially built the shellfish aquaculture industry in New York’s waterways from scratch. We’ve been using oysters to clean things up since before San Fransisco. And the successes we’ve had East of NYC are one of the things people pointed to when using oysters to clean up the San Francisco harbor was still just a proposal. Its also what people pointed to in starting the projects in the NYC limits.

Fish don’t generally get at oysters. Their major predators are a series of sea snails, only some of which are commonly eaten and which aren’t typically targeted by fish. And the water ways in question are filthy enough that this stuff is already in the fish there. Such that these places are closed entierely to commecial fishing. Oysters filter from the water column, not from sediment. We monitor catches nearby pretty heavily to make sure contamination isn’t spreading.

That’s part of the point. Marine environments aren’t fresh water shipping lanes. It works differently.

Oysters and other bivalves are the keystone species in these evironments. They go away so does everything else (they’re also native where as Zebra mussels are introduced/invasive). Certain critically important marine plants in these areas are heavily depopulated. Which removes habitat for small critters, breeding sites for fish, food for larger animals.

And healthy marine water isn’t clearer. Not by much anyway. A healthy bit North Atlantic, particularly inshore. Is a translucent green, even milky green in color. Light doesn’t pennetrate much deeper than 60ft or so. Unhealthy marine waters are relatively clear (which means free of life), and tend to have visible contaminants like plastic or a chemical sheen.

And without the bivalves there’s also nothing to filter out algae. Meaning there’s nothing to tamp down dangerous algae blooms driven by climate change and run off. Check out what’s happening in Florida with red tide ATM. Or just google red and brown tides.


What the hell kind of fish can get through an oyster shell?

It does sound counter-intuitive, but it’s a thing that happens, apparently.

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