MATAWAN, NJ - NY/NJ Baykeeper’s Restoration Program scientists discovered the natural growth of baby oysters, biologically known as spat, while monitoring the oyster restoration site at Naval Weapons Station Earle this week. Natural recruitment has been observed at the site for the first time which means that the adult oysters on the reef are spawning and the larvae is settling back on the reef. This is the first step in a self-sustaining reef.
The NY-NJ Harbor Estuary was once home to millions of acres of oyster beds. However, due to rampant development, overharvesting, and pollution, the metro-area oyster is now functionally extinct. NY/NJ Baykeeper has been working to restore the oyster population for the benefits they provide the surrounding communities, which include cleaner water, increased habitat, and shoreline stability.
“From a biological perspective, this initial discovery of spat is fantastic news, signifying the health of our oyster reef and Raritan Bay. With our continued urban shoreline habitat restoration efforts, we expect to see additional recruitment and reproduction,” said Meredith Comi, Restoration Program Director, NY/NJ Baykeeper.
“By working in partnership with the community and non-governmental organizations like the NY/NJ Baykeeper, Naval Weapons Station Earle is working to protect the Navy’s critical infrastructure, as well as our surrounding communities, against future storm surges,” said Eric Helms, environmental director for Naval Weapons Station Earle.
“As a bi-state restoration leader, we are thankful for the Navy’s unique assistance in providing a continued commitment to a safer and cleaner NY-NJ Harbor,” said Comi.
“The success of the Baykeeper’s oyster reef in Lower New York Harbor is further assurance that the NWS Earle pier complex will continue in it’s ability to provide the ordinance our warfighters depend on in defense of our nation for years to come,” said Helms.
NY/NJ Baykeeper and partners installed a first of its kind urban living shoreline last year at Naval Weapons Station Earle in Monmouth County, NJ. The 0.9 acre living shoreline consists of an artificial reef using live oysters and concrete structures, known as oyster castles, which provide the necessary hard surface that oysters attach and grow on.
“After Hurricane Sandy, it became critical to address shoreline erosion and improve coastal resiliency. The project will provide important data to determine how a living shoreline can fortify the nearby shoreline, improve water quality, and create aquatic habitat in our urban watershed and, hopefully, replicate this technique elsewhere in the estuary,” said Debbie Mans, Executive Director and Baykeeper, NY/NJ Baykeeper.
NY/NJ Baykeeper’s living shoreline project is funded, in part, by the Marta Heflin Foundation, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Victoria Foundation, Johanette Wallerstein Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and Proud Pour, Inc.
NY/NJ Baykeeper has recently been granted an award by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to expand the living shoreline project. NY/NJ Baykeeper’s has received permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the US Army Corps of Engineers to conduct this research.