Today’s Solutions: March 25, 2023

Back in February, we shared how The Galveston Bay Foundation partners with local restaurants to turn discarded oyster shells into marine habitats. Today, we’ve got another oyster solution, but this time the oysters are alive. 

When the pandemic hit, demand for seafood from restaurants plummeted, and by 2021 when restaurants started to really open back up, many oysters were too large to be served. Rather than waste them, The Nature Conservancy and PEW Charitable Trusts stepped in to buy millions of unsold oysters and turn them into living reefs for habitat restoration. 

Through the Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration (SOAR) program, $2 million worth of large oysters will be bought up and used to build 27 acres worth of habitat. In the wild, oysters serve to filter water and buffer storm surges to protect other native species and coastlines. Unfortunately, 85 percent of oyster reefs in the US have been destroyed, leaving ecosystems unsupported and coastlines vulnerable. By buying up oysters, SOAR is restoring marine habitats and supporting restaurants and farmers who are already struggling financially as a result of the pandemic. 

The first built reef will be located off Governor’s Island, using 5,000 oysters from local restaurant Lucky 13 Oysters. SOAR has partnered with the Billion Oyster Project and students from the Harbor School in New York to construct the reef. 

“New York Harbor used to be one of the great ecological treasures of the world. And we destroyed that by harvesting all the oyster reefs. The harbor is essentially a 200,000-acre forest that’s been clear cut,” Billion Oyster Project Executive Director Pete Malinowski told ABC News. “We think that by restoring oyster reefs to the harbor we can restore that lost habitat and also use it as a way to connect New Yorkers back to the harbor.”

Image source: ABC News

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