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Barge Delivering Shells for Bay Reef Site Near Toms River

Thousands of bushels of clam shells to become oyster habitat

A barge carrying tens of thousands of clam shells was located just south of Atlantic City Monday night, on its way to Barnegat Bay.

Its final destination will be a one-acre site in the central portion of Barnegat Bay that scientists have identified as a historic site for oyster growth.

The 8,000 bushels of clam shells – from more than 80,000 individual clams in all – will be used as an artificial reef on which oysters can grow, providing hope the area can be brought back to its once-productive glory.

The project is being speaheaded by the American Littoral Society in partnership with the Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Program and local group ReClam the Bay.

"Most oysters grow attached to other shells," explained Bill Shadel, Habitat Restoration Program Director for the American Littoral Society.

Normally, he said, oysters grow on the shells of other oysters, but clam shells can work just as well.

The reef site will be located off Good Luck Point, southeast of the mouth of the Toms River in the waters off Berkeley Township. It was chosen because of its historical oyster productivity as well as its selection by state Department of Environmental Protection scientists as having the best growth potential out of a number of sites surveyed across the estuary.

After workers from the marine contractor towing the barge deposit the clam shells over the site, they will remain there permanently, and 300,000 seed clams will be planted on the reef by next summer.

"We're going to try a few different methods to get oysters on the site, so we can see what will work best in the future," said Shadel.

In addition to planting seed clams raised in protected upwellers, workers with the bay's shellfisheries program will attempt to deposit oyster larvae directly onto a portion of the reef to see if and how well they survive and grow.

"That's going to be a different approach," Shadel said.

The American Littoral Society and its partners obtained permits for the reef site over the summer. Altogether, the project will cost $329,259 which has been raised through a number of federal government and nonprofit grants.

The Good Luck Point reef will be continually monitored as scientists scour the bay for future shellfish reef sites that could lead to an expansion of the program.

In addition to the central bay, areas near Brick Township and Little Egg Harbor have historically been productive clamming grounds. At its peak, the bay from Brick to Little Egg contained 20 square miles of oyster beds, though that number has been declining since the mid-1800s, officials with the American Littoral Society said.

There have been multiple causes for the decline, including overfishing, diease, and an increase in predators due to higher salinity that resulted from a storm-altered Beach Haven Inlet.

ikidunot October 09, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Barnegat Bay has been dying for over a hundred years. It's dying because of human activity with boating, storm drain run off, fertilizer run off, over building, bulk heading, dredging, etc... It's nice to see efforts put into trying to re introduce natural species that once thrived in this area. Unfortunately, unless you limit human activity, it won't work.
Ballantine October 09, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Part of the problem with the bay is that a large portion of what helped keep the bay healthy is pretty much gone. An adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water daily,so in a few years that bed can be filtering 15 million gallons of water each day,and with the addition of more oyster beds they are replacing a major part of the ecosystem. most of the major oyster beds were wiped out in the 20's, dredged up and loaded onto barges and brought down to South Jersey. Read Merce Ridgway's book "The Bayman",it's a great book from a clammer's perspective. Rebuilding the oyster population in the bay is key to the bay's revitalization efforts. ikidunot, I agree with you about why the bay is in such bad shape, but one hundred years ago the bay was thriving. There was a mere fraction of the people living here year round. There was a lot more salt meadows as well. I would have loved to see it back then, it must have been heaven!
bayway mike October 09, 2012 at 09:48 PM
The oysters aren't going to come back in this century or the next..The Barnegat Bay is a cess-pool for every community along its banks, not to mention any boater who deliberately discharges their waste(you know it, so do I)..Are those nasty sea-nettles only in the northern section of the bay, or is it the WHOLE bay?? Hey, how many clammers work the bay, anyway??
Ballantine October 09, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Nice defeatist stance there Mike. Overboard discharge has been going on for decades at places like Tices Shoals and F -Cove in Brick, Party Island. Even though there are pump-out stations at many marinas it still occurs. People are lazy. Do you remember when the ocean was a cesspool ,brown foam, medical waste,tar balls, dunnage, beach whistles and all kinds of garbage washing up on the beach. You don't see much of that lately now, do you? How 'bout the Mud- Dump or the Acid Waters, The Ciba-Geigy pipe,burning garbage offshore on barges. All of those practices were ended. I remember all that stuff, very clearly I surfed in it. The ocean is a lot cleaner today because of conservation efforts. Not as many clams = not as many clammers, it works both ways Mike. I've only seen nettles in the northern part of the bay, you know... the community cesspool portion. The Bay is at least worth an attempt to bring it back... on second thought they should have taken the grant money and spent it on a giant urinal cake.
R Silva October 10, 2012 at 01:06 PM
I hope they mark it well and restrict the area to keep the boats out of there. People will anchor and run over it destory the attempt to rr seed the population


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