New York, NY – From coast to coast, The Nature Conservancy is working to restore and rebuild populations of wild oysters. In February and March of 2016, Whole Foods Market and the Conservancy—two organizations dedicated to protecting our oceans and oysters—are working together to raise national awareness of this urgent conservation work. Right here in New York City, just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Billion Oyster Project is joining in—making it an all hands on deck effort to show some love for this important bivalve.

This collaborative effort is being celebrated with an in-store event, “Eat, Shuck, Love,” at Whole Foods Market Columbus Circle – On Tap. On Friday, Feb. 12th, from 5:00-6:30 p.m. The Nature Conservancy, Whole Foods Market and the Billion Oyster Project (BOP) will host an oyster happy hour with $1 oysters and drink specials at the store’s On Tap Bar. The event will also offer attendees an opportunity to learn more about oysters and the health of New York Harbor.

“Oysters are amazing creatures. They filter water, provide habitat for other wildlife, and oyster reefs help protect us from storm surge,” said Bill Ulfelder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in New York. “New York was once the richest oyster grounds in the world, and we have the opportunity to help bring them back for people and nature. And sustainably harvested, oysters can provide a good livelihood for many. We are delighted Whole Foods has provided The Nature Conservancy and the Billion Oyster Project with an opportunity to reach consumers and share why oyster restoration and water quality work should remain a key conservation priority.”   

Oysters act as “ecosystem engineers” of bays and estuaries, filtering impurities from the millions of gallons of freshwater that flow into the ocean. An individual adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, which means a healthy one-acre reef has the potential to filter approximately 24 million gallons of water per day.  These hard working shellfish also provide a natural buffer against storms and sea-level rise. Oyster reefs and beds create habitat for various sea life, such as small fish, blue crab and shrimp, contributing tremendously to the economic vitality of local fisheries and helping maintain a diverse marine environment.

“The Billion Oyster Project is so excited to have The Nature Conservancy join us as one of nearly 100 partners in our effort to restore New York Harbor,” said BOP co-founder Murray Fisher. “Restoring a self-sustaining oyster population in the New York metropolitan community was always an ambitious goal, and one that we can’t achieve alone. But today the prospect for a future with a beautiful, abundant and accessible New York Harbor just significantly improved. The Nature Conservancy’s national reach and experience in oyster restoration in a variety of settings means that this partnership is one of the most powerful that we could have formed. We can't wait to get to work applying the lessons from the Conservancy’s dozens of other oyster restoration projects to our work here in New York Harbor.”

This event comes just one week after the partnership between the Conservancy and the Billion Oyster Project was formalized. BOP's students and staff will be working with the Conservancy on ongoing research and monitoring as the two organizations move forward in the effort to restore reefs to the Harbor.

“This science initiative will not only take steps toward better understanding what it will take to restore the health of NY Harbor, it will also provide a greater understanding of shellfish restoration in coastal cities like Miami, Boston, and Houston,” Ulfelder said.

Despite the widespread decline of wild oysters, consumers can still feel good about eating oysters, provided they select the right ones.

“Not only are oysters delicious, healthy and easy to prepare, eating Responsibly Farmed oysters is part of the solution for reversing trends in dwindling wild oyster populations around the country,” said Carrie Brownstein, seafood quality standards coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “Oysters’ popularity is on the rise, so it’s extremely important that we provide shoppers access to responsibly sourced options they can trust. Whole Foods Market ensures that all mollusks offered in our stores are coming from farms that meet our rigorous standards, including prohibiting pesticides, monitoring water quality, protection of the coastal environment, evaluation of sediments on the seafloor, traceability from farm to store and third-party audits to prove standards are being met.”

In addition to this and other events around the country, Whole Foods Market is planning to support on-the-ground oyster habitat restoration throughout North America. Stores in Seattle, Oakland, Austin, Atlanta and New Orleans will all be hosting various activities including wine and oyster pairing events, “shuck-offs,” and other special promotions.

All the more reason to love oysters this Valentine’s Day: according to a new study in the Journal of Applied Ecology, just one acre of restored oyster reef provides 1.5 tons of extra fish and seafood per year.

To learn more about society’s love for oysters and the many ways they love us back, visit

For more information on events in your local Whole Foods Market, visit  

To learn more about the Nature Conservancy/Billion Oysters Partnership, visit

Rachel Winters,
The Nature Conservancy

Susannah Black,
Billion Oyster Project

Michael Sinatra,
Whole Foods Market

About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit us on the web at

About the Billion Oyster Project
Billion Oyster Project is an ecosystem restoration and education project aimed at restoring one billion live oysters to New York Harbor by the year 2035, and engaging hundreds of thousands of school children through restoration based STEM education programs.  Students at New York Harbor School have been growing and restoring oysters in New York Harbor for the last six years.  They have learned to SCUBA dive safely, raise oyster larvae, operate and maintain vessels, build and operate commercial-scaled oyster nurseries, design underwater monitoring equipment and conduct long-term authentic research projects all in the murky, contaminated, fast moving waters of one of the busiest ports in the country.  Together and with the help of many partners these students have restored over sixteen million oysters. Fifty-four schools have partnered with the project to provide authentic, place-based science and math lessons through the lens of oyster restoration.  Each year, thousands of students participate in these learning opportunities.