October 29, 2018

Reef Balls at West Harlem Piers Park Encouraging Oyster Growth

Ira Gershenhorn, also known as the 'Hudson Swimmer,' found four tires on rip rap near our West Harlem Piers Park with oyster spat, a ribbed mussel, and barnacles on them. The place where he found them indicates they likely came from a population of oysters from the 50 concrete reef balls installed in the water near West Harlem Piers Park in 2006 as part of the park project for coastline mitigation. We are happy to see that the marine habitat continues to support the oyster population of the river.

The reef balls were the first installed in NYC! The urbanization and industrial uses along the shores of the city over the past century resulted in a loss of complex habitat, including natural reefs and the sloping shoreline. Dome shaped reef balls help support the ecosystem and web of fish, invertebrates, and other organisms that depend on the shoreline areas of the city for habitat. The reef balls are made of marine concrete and mimic the functions of a natural reef. There were evaluations of the reef balls done by scuba diving marine scientists at 6, 12, and 18 months after they were installed. At 18 months, they found that the reef balls were supporting a population of Spotted Hake, American, Eel, Blue Crab, Striped Bass, and Tautog; indicating that the balls were transitioning from habitat for transient to permanent residents for spawning, feeding, and protection. You can view the full 18 month report here.

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