Leonardo, New Jersey - NY/NJ Baykeeper placed 18 oyster nets into the water at Naval Weapons Station Earle today, in order to conduct scientific research about the viability of oysters in that area of the Raritan Bay.
"Caption Harrison's leadership and acknowledgment of the benefits of oyster restoration research led the Navy to patiently work through an extensive permitting process with NJDEP. Additionally, this project could not have come to fruition without Senator Kyrillos and his staff tirelessly working with NJ DEP to secure proper permits and make this day possible," said Debbie Mans, Executive Director of NY/NJ Baykeeper.
In July, 2010, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection banned research, restoration, and education projects using oysters in "contaminated" waters; waters classified as "Restricted" or "Prohibited" for shellfish harvest. The ban ground to a halt NY/NJ Baykeeper's scientific work to test the viability of restoring oysters in the Raritan Bay. Not content to abandon hope for restoring water quality in the Raritan Bay, 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.
"We are grateful for Captain Harrison, and his staff at Naval Weapons Station Earle for being a gracious hosts to our team of scientists as they prepare to revive this vital research project," continued Mans. "We hope that NJDEP will overturn its ban on oyster research so that we can expand this scientific work beyond Earle."
While awaiting approval from NJ DEP to place the oysters at Earle, NY/NJ Baykeeper and its volunteers have been growing baby oysters in tanks in space provided by Moby's restaurant in Highlands. The babies were recently counted and measured, and today they were placed in tiered oyster nets placed sub-tidally below the pier at Earle. In spring the nets will be removed and the oysters inspected. The results will answer a simple question: can oysters survive a winter in the water at Naval Weapons Station Earle? The answer will guide future oyster research and restoration opportunities.