2009-08-14 / Top Stories

Weiner Wants The Oysters Back

Left to right: Dr Jeffrey Levinton, SUNY Stony Brook; Dan Mundy, Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers; Congressman Anthony Weiner; Barry Sullivan, Gateway NRA General Superintendent.) Photo by Brian Feeney, NPS. Left to right: Dr Jeffrey Levinton, SUNY Stony Brook; Dan Mundy, Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers; Congressman Anthony Weiner; Barry Sullivan, Gateway NRA General Superintendent.) Photo by Brian Feeney, NPS. Representative Anthony Weiner, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, was joined by expert marine biologists and Gateway National Recreation Area officials to launch the first efforts to bring back native oysters to Jamaica Bay.

Over a hundred years ago, oysters were abundant in the Jamaica Bay estuary. But back in the 1820s, overharvesting nearly demolished the oyster banks in New York City. Then in 1938 the bay was hit with a hurricane, toxic pollution and rampant overharvesting which wiped out the native Jamaica Bay oyster. "Bringing oysters back to the bay is one of the best things we can do for the estuary ecosystem. After over a century of absence, it's time for oysters to return to Jamaica Bay," said Weiner

Now, the congressman, the National Park Service, SUNY Stony Brook, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers are taking the first steps to bring back the native oyster to Jamaica Bay. In a three-year study, costing $155,000, the research will determine if native oyster larvae are present in Jamaica Bay and determine if the oysters can grow and survive in the bay. If the growing conditions are adequate, then a full-scale oyster restoration project could commence. It takes about two to three years for oysters to mature into adults.

Having oysters back in the Jamaica Bay estuary would do a world of good to the ecosystem. The little bi-valves are efficient filters that can go through 50 gallons of water per day. When filtering - which is how they eat — the oysters consume algae, reduce nitrogen levels and increase the oxygen levels in the water. With more oxygen and less nitrogen in the water, plants, fish and other animals will be better able to thrive — increasing the species diversity.

Professor Jeffrey Levinton, lead investigator and marine biologist at SUNY Stony Brook said, "Oysters are important components of marine ecosystems. They are natural filters of the water. If they were reintroduced to Jamaica Bay, they would form mounds and attract diverse plant and animal species. Our research will show us that oysters can survive and grow rapidly in Jamaica Bay.

We hope it will also show us that if oysters were reintroduced to Jamaica Bay, they would be able to grow, reproduce, and establish sustainable oyster reefs."

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