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Thank YOU Volunteers!

By admin
October 2, 2013

This past Saturday Harbor School and Harbor Foundation convened the first BOP oyster restoration volunteer day of the season. Thanks in large part to our friends at NY Oyster Week for spreading the word to the ostrea-faithful, we had a stellar turnout of about 25 highly motivated, enthusiastic and all around awesome volunteers of all ages. We spent a gorgeous Fall day on Governors Island working together, learning about the Harbor, and contributing in very tangible ways to the Billion Oyster Project. We expect these volunteer days to be a regular feature of BOP so if you like what you see below, please fill out our volunteer form and we’ll keep you posted on upcoming volunteer ops and special events.

This past Saturday’s activities were diverse (read: post-Sandy garage clean-up/bike repair), but everyone spent at least half the day working directly with oysters and building out restoration equipment called reef mats. These reef mats are one experimental method – used successfully by the Nature Conservancy in south Florida – of building substrate and holding oysters in place on the bottom. In NY Harbor reef mats help to overcome two of our main obstacles to restoration: lack of hard bottom and high energy underwater environments caused by boat wakes and tidal currents. Reef mats are essentially squares of plastic mesh lined with spat-on-shell (clumps of baby oysters) and propped up on cinder blocks. The mats hold the young oysters in place for years, keeping them out of the sediment so they can feed, grow, reach maturity, and if conditions are right begin reproducing and building reef locally. The downside to the mats is of course the plastic mesh. The last thing our oceans need is more plastic! However, on a limited scale the reef mats work exceedingly well for small scale restoration pilots. One alternative material we are testing is galvanized steel mesh and rebar though these tend to break down underwater in a matter of months.

Reef restoration in NY Harbor is still very much in its infancy. BOP is currently testing various methods – reef mats, balls, silos, and castles to name a few – which have been used successfully in other less urbanized estuaries around the country. All of these methods are labor intensive and require the help of volunteers and whole communities. Starting next month we’ll be ramping up reef construction on the eastern shore of Governors Island and Buttermilk channel. This effort will involve moving large quantities of shell (aka “cultch”) to the beach, building underwater habitat structures from metal and cement, placing live adult oysters on the reef and counting/sorting juveniles for grow-out in our nearby eco-dock nursery.  This will be increasingly labor intensive as we move into the colder months, and we’ll need all the help we can get this winter to create prime conditions for natural spat-fall and recruitment of wild oysters this Spring.  Hope to see you there! (The next BOP volunteer day is scheduled for October 26th. Sign up at