Oysters have been cultivated for food since pre-historic times, and through the years, they’ve been viewed as food for the poor, food for the rich, and everyone in between. But oysters also serve another function — they’re a natural filter for plankton and other organic material — that can help keep waterways clean and clear.
In the 19th century, the oyster beds of New York Harbor were the largest source of oysters in the world, but by 1906, they were gone. And the vital work they did to help keep the waters around New York clean and life-supporting ended too. After the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1971, which ended the dumping of sewage into the water, the water began to clear. Today, the harbor is on the way to recovery, and the marine species are returning. But they need help — and the students involved in the Billion Oyster Project are working to make that happen by planting new oyster beds throughout the harbor.
Check out some pics from Maggie’s shoot with the students working on the project, and see what it’s like to harvest oysters from the ocean in the news article and slideshow below.