Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles About 8,000 oyster shells are dumped onto Governors Island each week. They're used shells that were served in dishes in 75 seafood restaurants across New York. But they're not going in the trash. The Billion Oyster Project is using them to restore reefs in New York's Harbor. The harbor used to have one of the largest sources of oyster reefs in the world, but overfishing, disease, and poor water quality killed and damaged much of the oyster beds that lived in the waters around Manhattan. And now, the Billion Oyster Project is trying to bring these oysters back. Oysters filter the water, provide food and habitat for hundreds of ocean species, and protect shorelines from waves and storm damage. Back in the day in New York City it was much calmer because there was all these oyster reefs to break up the waves, and that allowed there to be salt marshes and other soft shoreline that helped protect the City, filter runoff coming down and do all that. Without the reefs, the land is more exposed to storm damage and waves and things like that. Narrator: Billion Oyster Project grew out of the New York Harbor School, and began its work on Governors Island in 2010, two years before super storm Sandy hit. The storm devastated areas at the city's shoreline with 12 foot waves, some even higher. The storm's impact was huge, leaving the city with $19 billion in damages. In 2016, the governor's office for storm recovery began funding the Billion Oyster Project and its shell collection program. Though oyster shells won't entirely prevent future storm surges or floods, the Billion Oyster Project is hoping they will help. Baby oysters naturally want to attach themselves onto oyster shell, so we need a large, large quantity of oyster shell in order to do our restoration work. And the only way to get oyster shell in the Northeast, and especially in New York, is to recycle it from restaurants. Narrator: Without these oysters to attach to, baby oysters would otherwise fall into the mud of the ocean and die. And if not donated, these leftover shells from restaurants would end up in landfills. BOP estimates about 30 tons of oyster shell enters landfills a week. So instead of going to waste, the team uses each shell to grow a new oyster. And thanks to the city's love for seafood, there's no shortage of them. We try to donate every oyster shell we get. Since we go through about 1,500 to 2,000 oysters a week, you end up collecting a lot of shells. It's kind of a no-brainer. If you're able to sort of train your staff to save the oyster shells as they come back, then why not do it? Narrator: Shells sun bathe for a year on the island before they're brought into the Harbor School's hatchery. Here, they grow in the lab for a few weeks, getting ready for life again in the harbor. Once the oysters are ready, they're put into steel rectangular structures designed by ocean engineering students, and restored back to the water. Pete: We are working towards a future when, looking out at the same view we see birds and fish and the harbor's a safe place to access and where it's a place where you can play and learn and work and all that.