find out how

Restaurants are Helping

Recovering Oyster Shells, Restoring our Estuary

Shell collection is a crucial aspect of BOP’s work and is going strong — with 8,000 pounds of shell collected every week! 

Oysters spend the first two to three weeks of their lives as free-swimming larvae. At the end of their larval period they settle out of the water column to the Harbor floor.  If they don’t find a hard surface they fall into the mud and die. The shells of other oysters offer the perfect hard substrate. However, New York Harbor’s oyster reefs have disappeared. One of our limiting factors for restoration is securing enough shell to rebuild reefs and to use as substrate in the lab.

Fortunately, there is an abundant source of oyster shells right here in New York City. New Yorkers eat up to half a million oysters every week. Those shells are restoration gold, but they’ve been treated as waste and shipped to distant landfills. Now, thanks to the BOP Shell Collection Program operated by our partner The Lobster Place, we are able to capture a small portion of this resource and divert it from landfills. We currently collect oyster shells from over 70 restaurants in NYC. Our Shell Collection Program reclaims this natural resource and prepares it for reuse. Shells are shuttled to Governors Island where they will cure for one year before being reintroduced to the Harbor as cultch and reef substrate. BOP uses cured oyster shells to grow new oysters (up to 20 on just one shell), build habitat, and improve the quality of our Harbor. To see a map of our current restaurant partners, go here.

It will take generations to restore the damage caused by centuries of overharvesting, pollution, and dredging. But we’re in it for the long haul. Our students and staff have already restored more than 28 million oysters, and we’re adding new reef sites all the time– involving ever more New Yorkers in restoring their Harbor. To keep up the pace, we need your help!

If you are a restaurant hoping to join the Shell Collection Program full time, please fill out this form. Want to get involved in another way? We are happy to work with you on special partnership projects such as educational seminars and fundraising events. Please email to further discuss alternative options. If you have questions about the program logistics, they might be answered in our FAQ.

The Shell Life Cycle