When Prince William stepped into the waters of East River off Governor’s Island, the glinting excitement in the eyes of New York City’s young environmentalists was palpable.
With the iconic Brooklyn Bridge Park across the way as the backdrop, the Prince of Wales delved deep into the unique endeavor aimed at restoring oyster reefs using discarded shells, capturing the hearts of locals, especially the students involved.
Adorning a pair of waders, Prince William mingled with volunteers at a man-made oyster bed, reviving memories of New York Harbor’s once flourishing natural habitat.
The Prince’s two-day visit to the Big Apple primarily revolved around his Earthshot Prize, an initiative to highlight and amplify planet-repairing solutions. He will announce the 2023 finalists during a Tuesday event.
On his arrival in the US, the royal took a moment to admire the unyielding American spirit. He expressed: “It’s so good to be back in the United States. No one does optimism and ingenuity like the American people, so it’s only right we unveil this year’s Earthshot finalists in New York City. I know our generation can take the bold action we need to make changes towards a healthy and sustainable world.”
Evoking John F. Kennedy’s words, he added: “We rise to the challenge not because it is easy, but because it is hard. And vital.”
The Prince’s journey continued to Governors Island, where the impressive Manhattan skyline loomed in the background. Here, he met with students, volunteers, and restaurateurs affiliated with the Billion Oyster Project.
William explored the hatchery center, observing fledgling oysters and interacting with students involved in the nurturing process. They used nutrient-rich fish waste to grow algae as food for these baby molluscs.
For the students, interacting with Prince William was nothing short of “incredible.” One enthusiastic student said: “It was pretty incredible. He was genuinely interested in all our work. This work is really important to all of us because we all live in New York City, this is our home.”
Another chimed in, highlighting the Prince’s keen interest, “He wanted to learn everything. We taught him how to measure the oysters and introduced him to the different creatures.”
The genuine surprise and admiration in their voices were evident. “He was super nice. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was great; he was very sweet,” another student shared.
Reflecting on their initiative, William told the students, “It’s quite a clever initiative to use the fish to do the growing.” He was particularly intrigued by the foundation of the oyster beds.
These are created using shells, which undergo a year-long drying process before being cleaned and sorted. William even interacted with a volunteer, noting that sifting through the shells, especially in good weather, was “quite therapeutic.”
Pete Malinowski, the visionary co-founder of the Billion Oyster Project, discussed with William how these discarded shells would have otherwise ended up in landfills.
Venturing waist-deep into the waters near the Brooklyn shore, William exhibited an enthusiastic spirit, examining cages of oyster shells teeming with young molluscs.
Agata Poniatowski, the public outreach manager for the project, joined William in this aquatic exploration. Reflecting on their interaction, she mentioned the Prince’s fascination with the clustering habit of oysters, which contrasts with the singular display in restaurants.
She said: “They provide lots of habitat and space for other creatures. We got to see some fish, and crabs, and pointed out the marine life we have here in New York through monitoring our oysters.”