The Tourist Tee
In the field with Billion Oyster Project and Friends of Bellport Bay
For this spring's Tourist Tee commemorating New York Harbor and the Great South Bay, we got out in our local NYC and Long Island waters with two groups working hard to revive local oyster populations: Billion Oyster Project and Friends of Bellport Bay. In order to support their efforts, we will be splitting 10% of the proceeds from the sale of our Tourist Tee between Billion Oyster Project and Friends of Bellport Bay.
Though people are getting back out to restaurants and eating a lot of oysters again in NYC, there remains a pandemic surplus of farmed shellfish that will not be making it to market. Through its SOAR initiative, the Nature Conservancy and The Pew Charitable Trusts are working to purchase more than 5 million surplus farmed oysters for use in nearby oyster restoration projects—a win-win for these environmentally friendly businesses, and for our ocean ecosystems.
Reintroducing oyster reefs to estuaries like New York Harbor and Great South Bay is a cornerstone of efforts to return both areas, which were once oyster-abundant, to better health. A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day, removing excess nitrogen that can lead to devastating algae blooms. Since they reproduce by clinging to each other, oysters form natural reefs that become foundational for other sea life. Once oyster reefs grow large enough, they can even help mitigate the impact of severe storms.
Billion Oyster Project began at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, a public high school on Governors Island, and has grown into an organization with over 10,000 volunteers and 8,000 students working across the city's 5 boroughs. They've installed 15 oyster reefs throughout NYC, and collected 1.6 million pounds of recycled shells from local restaurants. Those shells are in the process of being returned to New York Harbor as the foundation of the new reefs. We photographed members of BOP restoring oysters in New York Harbor as part of The Nature Conservancy's SOAR initiative.
Friends of Bellport Bay (FoBB) is on a similar mission, focusing on improving the health and water quality of Bellport Bay and the Great South Bay through shellfish and oyster restoration, marine habitat improvement, and environmental education. FoBB has planted over one million oysters in the Bay since 2015, with support from The Long Island Community Foundation (LICF), Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (CCESC) Marine, a volunteer team of local community members, and high school student interns. FoBB participated in SOAR, collaborating with The Nature Conservancy, Pew Charitable Trusts, NOAA, and local oyster farmers to plant oysters in the Bay. In 2020, the Town of Brookhaven awarded FoBB a 2 acre protected shellfish restoration area that is off-limits to shellfish harvesting, and a site for a future reef, in which hundreds of thousands of oysters are planted and establish habitat.
So the next time you eat oysters, take a moment to appreciate their role in our oceans, and the efforts of BOP and FOBB.