Tribeca's Baby Oysters Get a Checkup, And They're Looking Good

A reef ball covered with juvenile oysters is hauled by crane out of the Hudson River and onto a Monmouth University vessel. The ball is one of 80 that was dropped into the river last July between Piers 26 and 34. Researchers will return in September to check the oysters' progress.  Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jul. 27, 2022

Last summer researchers plopped more than 11 million grain-of-sand-sized baby oysters into the Tribeca section of the Hudson River. They hoped that the tiny creatures, seeded onto reef balls and into cage-like gabions between Pier 26 and Pier 34, would eventually grow into a thriving addition to the Hudson’s local oyster population. The aim is to help diversify the river’s species population, improve water quality, and develop a new reef corridor between the two piers. 

So how are they doing? 

“It’s really exciting,” said Carrie Roble, a Hudson River Park Trust vice president who is in charge of the agency’s Tribeca Habitat Enhancement Project. The minuscule oysters, called spat, which went into the river last July, are now “two-ish” inches and growing, Roble said in a phone interview. “I would say the oysters were even a little bit bigger than we were anticipating.” Next year, she noted, they should begin to spawn. 

This month the researchers pulled up the reef balls and gabions not only to check the progress of the growing bivalves, but also to see how fish are responding to improvements in the river habitat. “We were seeing a lot of juvenile fish, like American eels and oyster toadfish and black sea bass, falling out of the gabions,” Roble said. ”So a lot of fish were obviously using these structures for protection, which is one of the hopes.” 

Fish monitoring this summer is also part of the Tribeca Habitat Enhancement Project, which is collaborating with the Billion Oyster Project, the Hudson River Foundation, consultants AKRF, and four universities. Researchers from the Trust’s River Project are working with Rutgers University to weekly check traps between the two piers to see the impact of oyster structures on the types of aquatic animals, including crabs and minnows, that are being drawn to the local waters. So far, sea robins, an oyster toadfish, black sea bass, tomcod, gravid (male) seahorse and flounder have been among the “catch,” Roble said.

Research findings so far are preliminary. A full public report is expected this fall or early winter. But from what she’s seen so far, Roble said, the oysters are thriving. Hopefully, theyll start reproducing,” she said, and that means they will attract more oysters and this reef complex will continue to grow.”