If passed legislation would lift 2010 NJDEP ban

Keyport, N.J. - Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia (D-33) and Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27) reintroduced legislation that would require the Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to lift the ban on shellfish research in coastal and inner harbor waters for research, restoration, and education purposes. A3944 was introduced on November 13th, cosponsored by Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R-13). 

Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-39) followed suit and introduced the same bill, S2617, in the Senate on December 1st. Senator Cardinale and Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) had previously introduced an identical bill, S107, co-sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22) in the 2012-2013 legislative session but it did not move forward. 

"We all want to protect and maintain the health of our waterways," said Assemblyman Carmelo G. Garcia (D-Hudson).  "Oysters do this naturally by filtering the water and removing nitrogen compounds.They also serve as barriers to prevent beach and shoreline erosion and provide refuge and habitat for fish and other sea life.These benefits along with the many educational opportunities oyster restoration programs will give students and stewards of our environment are just a few of the reasons why I am championing this issue by introducing legislation that will allow oyster restoration."

 

On June 7, 2010, NJDEP banned research-related gardening of commercial shellfish species in waters classified as contaminated. The purpose of the ban was to minimize the risks of illegally harvested or poached shellfish. However, environmentalists argue that the concern could be mitigated through patrolling and enforcement in coastal and inner harbor waters. 

Prior to the ban, organizations such as the NY/NJ Baykeeper had led successful oyster restoration and gardening programs in Raritan Bay and the Navesink River, providing valuable educational and volunteer opportunites to students and community members. Once NJDEP instituted the shellfish research ban, NY/NJ Baykeeper was forced to discard living research projects. 

"Our work has always focused on the unique challenges of an urban estuary," said Meredith Comi, NY/NJ Baykeeper's Oyster Restoration Program Director. "Basic scientific questions regarding how oysters improve the functioning of an urban estuary must be answered. Lifting the ban on shellfish research will allow this vital data to be collected and used to develop restoration practices that are appropriate to the unique conditions of the NY/NJ Harbor."