Monday, August 10, 2009

After a Century Without Oysters in Jamaica Bay: Weiner Takes First Steps to Bring Them Back

NEWS: Weiner Takes First Steps to Bring Oysters Back

Bivalves Would Help Revive Long-Suffering Bay Ecosystem

SUNY Professor Jeffrey Levinton, Dan Mundy of Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers, Rep. Anthony Weiner and Gateway Park Superintendent Barry Sullivan examine the eco-friendly bivalves they are trying to grow in Jamaica Bay.

Representative Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn and Queens), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, was joined by expert marine biologists and Gateway National Park 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, over-harvesting nearly demolished the oyster banks in New York City. Then in 1938 the Bay was hit with a hurricane, toxic pollution and rampant over-harvesting 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 Rep. Weiner

Now, Congressman Weiner, the National Park Service, SUNY Stony Brook, the NY 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 3-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.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, Dan Mundy of Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers, SUNY Professor Jeffrey Levinton and Gateway Park Superintendent Barry Sullivan look at bags of oyster shells which will hopefully serve as as a friendly habitat for oyster larvae living in the Jamaica Bay estuary.

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, fish, plants 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.