MARCH 2012

Growth and Reproduction of Eastern Oysters, Crassostrea Virginica, in a New York City Estuary: Implications for Restoration

by Chester B. Zarnoch and Martin P. Schreibman




The Hudson River estuary (HRE) had significant populations of eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) prior to the 1920s. A combination of overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction led to the loss of both the oyster fishery and the ecological services oysters provide. Recent improvements in water quality have led to an interest in reintroducing eastern oysters into the HRE to enhance ecosystem characteristics. However, there are few data on oyster biology and the potential for their restoration in the HRE. In this study, we measured growth, reproduction, and survival of oysters transplanted to two sites in Jamaica Bay (New York) with contrasting water-quality parameters. Condition index and gonadal stage were measured in adult oysters from May through August 2003. Juvenile growth and mortality were measured from July to October 2003. These measurements provide the first description of oyster growth, survival, and reproduction in the HRE. We found that adult oysters successfully spawn in Jamaica Bay, and their gonadal maturation is similar to that of oysters in Long Island Sound. Juvenile growth, measured as shell height (mm), was comparable to that of oysters in other local marine systems and was not affected by the reduced water quality in Jamaica Bay. These preliminary data can guide restoration planning. However, we suggest that several issues need further research before restoration efforts are implemented in the HRE.

Keywords: Hudson River estuary, eastern oyster, Jamaica Bay, restoration, growth, reproduction, survival