Huge Oyster, Largest Found in Hudson 'By Far,' Discovered Beneath Pier 40

Toland Kister of The River Project holds the newly discovered 1.3-pound oyster that is believed to be more than 10 years old. "I continue to be in awe of this oyster," Kister said. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Aug. 02, 2018

The River Project, the river research field station at Pier 40, has a collection of many diverse and fascinating aquatic creatures. But one, a recent arrival, is a superstar.

Weighing in at 1.3 pounds and just over eight inches long, it is a giant oyster found last month by hard hat divers who are repairing Pier 40, near Houston Street.

“This oyster is by far the largest oyster recorded in the Harbor in modern times,” said Cathy Drew, The River Project’s executive director.

The former record-setting oysters, found only last summer beneath a floating dock at Pier 25 in Tribeca, were far smaller. This one is about half again their size. “It blows the biggest ones out of the water,” said Toland Kister, a River Project educator, as he held the big bivalve up for inspection. “It’s incredibly old and a knockout for size.”

John Waldman, an aquatic conservation biologist and Queens College professor who has seen a picture of the oyster, estimated its age as more than 10 years, and possibly between 15 and 20 years old.

Oysters, which on average live about six years, continue to grow as they age and the size of this one, Waldman said, “suggests a continuity of adequately good conditions over the course of a long span of time. Because this guy is not just a few years old.”

Kister pointed out that the oyster over its many years has served as a habitat for “hundreds of other animals.” On one side of the shell are many tiny circles that Kister said indicates the oyster has hosted lots of barnacles, and on the other are holes that he believes were formed by tiny worms.

Having monitored the discovery since a worker brought it to The River Project last month, Kister said the oyster is doing well in its new home. “It has been open and feeding and metabolizing. That’s a really good sign.”

“It’s just absolutely amazing,” he added. “I continue to be in awe of this oyster.”

“It reminds you,” Waldman noted, “that we’re living at the edge of a wild place. The underwaters of New York are a wild place, and we kind of take it for granted.”