Keyport, NJ - Today, a team of citizen scientist volunteers, led by NY/NJ Baykeeper and Dr. Beth Ravit, Instructor of Environmental Science at Rutgers, completed data collection needed to create the first ever survey map of shoreline conditions in the Raritan Bay.

"Almost exactly a year ago, NJ DEP forced Baykeeper to remove and destroy 30,000 living oysters because of its ban on oyster restoration research," said Debbie Mans, Executive Director of NY/NJ Baykeeper. "We will not accept the Bay's poor water quality. We are waiting for NJ DEP to begin working with us on a plan to improve water quality in the Raritan Bay. So while the oyster ban is in place--and nothing is being done to heal the Bay--we are doing valuable alternative research such as this mapping project and identifying a site that DEP considers safe for oyster research, the Naval Weapons Station Earle."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Hudson-Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan (CRP) calls for 500 acres of oyster restoration, however, the feasibility of this scale of oyster restoration has not been ground-truthed. Most restoration activities occur in systems where there is an existing oyster population, but in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, the Eastern oyster is 'ecologically extinct' so reviving its population requires unique and creative approaches that will be guided by this map.

The Baykeeper/Rutgers team has been gathering data that they will use to map current Raritan Bay conditions. The map will be a specific guide for potential shellfish restoration activities. Data collected includes the presence of any existing shellfish species; potential pollution sources; the presence of submerged or emergent sea grass species; the presence of bulkheads or docks; public access points; and, water quality parameters (dissolved oxygen, turbidity, salinity, pH).

Dr. Beth Ravit said, "The mapping project will allow us to pick restoration test sites that have a great potential for long-term success. The next step would be-if NJ DEP allows us-- to place test cages at some of the high scoring locations to see if the oysters survive the winter. If survivorship is high, that would indicate that our mapping model has validity and could be used as a tool in identifying other viable restoration sites in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary that may fulfill the goals of the U.S. Army Corps' Comprehensive Restoration Plan."

The map, which being created by Rutger's University F. Walton Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis is expected to be completed by Fall 2011. Baykeeper plans to expand the map to the west to cover Perth Amboy, South Amboy, Newark Bay, and other areas