Push to make more oysters available in New York area waters

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Lauren Glassberg went along as divers searched for oysters in the Long Island Sound. (WABC)

With warmer weather you may eat more seafood, perhaps oysters.

It may surprise you to know that oysters used to be as popular in New York City has hot dogs, pizza and bagels are today.

And there's a push to make them as available once again.

"Oysters are a huge component of what we do here. We serve as many as 7,000 a week," said chef Kerry Heffernan.

That's a lot of shucking, and it's being done on a boat turned restaurant called Grand Banks docked at Manhattan's Pier 25.

Heffernan is the chef and an avid fisherman.

"New York was the oyster capital of the world," he said. "There were oysters just about everywhere."

Including right here in the Hudson River. "This would have been a prime habitat for lots of New York oysters," said Heffernan.

He laments the fact that you can no longer eat oysters from these waters.

Since the 1920s the Hudson has just been considered too toxic, and the population of oysters compromised. So instead oysters are now either farm raised or wild harvested.

Navy points, for example, come from the Long Island Sound, but even here they aren't plentiful.

"It's very difficult to find oyster beds in the Long Island Sound. For years we've been searching for new locations," said Chris Quartuccio, who owns Blue Island Oysters.

And he's been diving for oysters for 21 years. If anyone can find a oyster bed he can.

He took chef Kerry along for a dive.

The oysters live on reefs usually about 25 feet down and with good visibility, it's not hard to grab oysters and bag them.

In ten minutes they've got a couple dozen. "These oysters will be on restaurant menus tomorrow, they'll be delivered," said Chris.

And they are delicious.

Back in Manhattan, chef Kerry works with the Billion Oyster Project to help restore the oyster habitat in the Hudson. He hopes that one day the oysters he serves will be as local as right off this boat.

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