Oysters for a Cause

When I decided I wanted to learn more about the sexy, salty, delicious oysters I love slurping (and painting) so much, I was overwhelmed – both by how much there was to learn about a creature I thought was pretty simple and also by the relationships between oysters and the environment.

One of the first resources I discovered was the Billion Oyster Project (BOP,) and they caught my attention because there’s a local connection.  BOP’s goal is to distribute one billion oysters across 100 acres of oyster reefs in New York Harbor by 2030. 

It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s one that matters. 

The waters of New York Harbor were home to 220 acres of oyster reefs when Henry Hudson sailed into them in 1609.  By 1906 the oysters were gone, and years of dumping toxic waste into the harbor had rendered the waters unfit for any marine life.  Even oysters – who filter the water they inhabit – couldn’t survive.

But critical environmental regulation has begun to turn things around for New York Harbor, and BOP aims to make the waters even cleaner, turning the harbor into a thriving marine ecosystem once again – a place where healthy oysters make waters even cleaner.

When I decided I wanted to find a way to improve the environment through the sale of my art prints, I selected BOP as one of the causes I’d support.  Every oyster print that’s purchased supports BOP and other great organizations.

My hope is participate in restoring New York Harbor, even if it’s in my own modest way.  Your support matters to me and to BOP.

Why Oysters?

I grew up near the sea, in South Carolina and southern France.  For my entire life, when I’ve needed to recharge, I’ve sought out the salty air, the perpetual tides, and the bounty of the sea.  It’s been medicine, nourishment, and inspiration for my life and work.

Oysters are such simple creatures.  They begin life as tiny larvae that attach to hard surfaces.  They grow their own shells to protect their delicate bodies.  They filter their nutrients from the waters in which they live and grow, making their environment cleaner in the process.  It’s a symbiosis that I find beguiling.

Eating a raw oyster is such a primitive act.  We use sharp tools to pry open the sturdy shell of a living creature.  We loosen its grip on the shell.  We may splash on tangy, fresh lemon juice and a little hot sauce, and down the hatch it goes.  Years of work and growth packaged in a delicious, briny bath.  It’s hedonistic.  It’s sexy.  It’s a ritual that oyster lovers consider near-holy.

Oysters matter.  They’re one of the few food sources that actually improve the environment in which they’re raised.  Plummeting populations indicate waterways in dire need of recovery and preservation.  And in building up oyster populations in vulnerable bodies of water, we’re becoming part of the solution.

Why oysters?  Why not?