The Human Impacts Institute Helping Out The Billion Oyster Project

This past Saturday the Human Impacts Institute (HII) collaborated with the Billion Oysters Project at the East River State Park to let the public know about our little friends in the water that have a huge impact - oysters!


Just a few facts on the oysters of New York - The eastern oyster or American oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is the only species of oyster found along the U.S. East coast. Crassostrea virginica ranges from St. Lawrence Bay in Canada south to the Gulf of Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula, and can be found as far as the West Indies and Brazil. The species most commonly occurs in coastal (estuary and bay) waters and is well known for forming extensive reef systems both intertidally and subtidally. As filter feeding organisms, oysters help improve local water quality by removing suspended sediments and algae, and in so doing they also play a crucial role in nutrient cycling by removing excess nitrogen out of the system.

Oysters once formed the dominant habitat type in the Hudson Raritan Estuary providing shelter, food and spawning grounds to over 200 species of aquatic organisms. The Hudson Raritan Estuary encompasses all waters around New York City and northern New Jersey and is home to one of the greatest natural harbors in the world, and now also one of the busiest ports in the entire United States. However now we have completely wiped out oyster habitats in this area through a combination of dredging, development and dumping.

Why are Oysters Important?

  • They remove excess nitrogen from our waters reducing algae growth

  • Cycles nutrients through the food chain

  • A single oyster can filter up to 24 gallons of water a day in optimal conditions leading to better water quality overall

  • Provide a habitat for submerged aquatic flora and fauna

  • Wave breaks that can reduce the harmful effect of swells on our shorelines


The Billion Oyster Project aims to reclaim the habitat that the oysters once had by reintroducing them into the shoreline. They do so through a variety of different methods but the ones that HII worked with was by building oyster cages. By the end of the day the HII team had helped plant 240 oysters into the East River State Park shore!

Come join the Billion Oyster Project in their effort by going to and checking out their volunteer opportunities. Their next few meetings to help are going to be at Governors Island on these dates -

  • Saturday August 2nd 10am to 5pm

  • Saturday September 13th 10am to 5pm

  • Saturday September 27th 10am to 5pm

Come out and have some fun!

Many thanks to HEP/NEIWPCC for supporting this program.


Written by Samir Jagdish, Environmental Services Intern

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