Keyport, New Jersey - NY/NJ Baykeeper has been awarded a contract in the amount of $155,676.60 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in support of the NY/NJ Baykeeper Oyster Restoration Program. This funding will allow Baykeeper to evaluate three oyster support structures to determine which will provide the highest over-winter survival and growth rates. The research project will be hosted at Naval Weapons Station Earle in Sandy Hook Bay. Baykeeper recently received a permit from New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to utilize 10.7 acres of Navy property for to expand oyster restoration and research."
Baykeeper and the Rutgers Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability will construct a new experimental oyster reef using three types of oyster support structures, 1) Reefblk, 2) Reef Ball, and 3) a cargo pallet. The structure with the highest survival rate will then house oysters in order to study long term survival, reproduction, reef biodiversity, and water quality. Assuming that survival is high, in coming years, Baykeeper will continue adding to the restoration area in one-to-two acre increments. Monitoring will continue for a minimum of five years.
"We thank the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for recognizing the value of our oyster work and funding this important research," said Baykeeper Debbie Mans. "Between the Navy graciously hosting our scientists, receiving the permit from NJ DEP, and receiving this infusion of funding, this project has tremendous momentum," Mans added.
In 2010, NJ DEP banned research, restoration, and education projects using oysters in waters classified as "Restricted" or "Prohibited" for shellfish harvesting. This essentially deems the vast majority of the waters from northern New Jersey to Monmouth County off-limits for oyster restoration. As a result, NY/NJ Baykeeper approached the Navy about placing oyster nets at Naval Weapons Station Earle, which is under 24/7 security, and therefore eliminates any poaching risk and began oyster survival research at Earle in October, 2011. Baykeeper received over 3,000 signatures on a petition asking NJ DEP to lift the ban.
Oysters are vital to the ecological integrity of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary and Baykeeper has been working to restore oyster beds in NY and NJ waters since 1999.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Hudson-Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan (CRP) calls for oyster restoration in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, primarily in the Raritan Bay. The oyster nets at Naval Weapons Station Earle furthered Baykeeper and Rutgers' scientific work to test the viability of that restoration plan.