Oysters are now a luxury food, but in the past they were easily collected from the shore and common food for the poor. When Bristolians rioted they often threw oyster shells which were strewn in the streets and the sharp edges could do serious harm to victims. This is from the i last week:
“The first settlers worked up quite a appetite building what became one of the largest cities in the world. They picked and ate oysters from their reefs in Raritan Bay, starting in the 1600s. Subsequent generations kept at it, with rakes and tongs, and as the reefs declined, early New Yorkers used “Dredges towed from sloops and schooners”,m a ew study says. By the early 20th century, 220,000 acres of reef covering 350 square miles was gone.
The city also lost its natural protection from once-in-a-lifetime megastorms such as Hurricane Sandy, which caused massive flooding when winds sent ocean waves crashing into the harbour in 2012. New York’s living, natural barrier to storms went into the stomachs of he people who built the place. The reefs they destroyed over 4 centuries could have stopped a significant portion of the flooding that cost the city more than $40bn (£28m) in repairs.
Oysters pled on top of each other in a reef are a force of nature. Not only do they filter pollution from water as they dine on microorganisms, but their collective brawn can also reduce wave energy.
Now the state is considering spending billions of dollars on a man-made barrier to recreate what the oysters did naturally.