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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 20, 2004

Contact: Peter Boger
(609) 984-1795

DEP PROPOSES NEW OPENINGS OF SHELLFISH BEDS
Reclassifications reflect continued improvements in marine water quality

(04/04) TRENTON - The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced that New Jersey has proposed the reclassification of 830 acres of shellfish beds, opening many of them to more harvesting by recreational and commercial shellfishermen.

"The opening of these waters demonstrates the benefits of New Jersey's commitment to protecting water quality and enhancing our precious marine resources," DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell said. "Marine ecosystems and economic development mutually benefit from our environmental protections - that is why Governor McGreevey has set such a strong environmental agenda and record for our state."

The reclassifications are based on water quality surveys performed by DEP's Marine Water Monitoring program, which found that the water quality around several of the shellfish beds had improved sufficiently to allow for increased safe harvesting and consumption of the shellfish. DEP typically monitors and assesses water quality in shellfish beds for at least three years prior to any lengthening or shortening of harvesting periods. New Jersey collects approximately 15,000 water samples each year at over 2,500 sampling locations in the state's bay and ocean waters.

"New Jersey has opened approximately 90 percent of its shellfish beds to the more than 9,000 licensed shellfishermen in the state," said Campbell. "This year, as in the last two years, New Jersey has upgraded more beds than it has downgraded."

Of the 830 acres being reclassified, 510 acres are being upgraded while 320 acres are being downgraded. DEP is proposing upgrades for: 161 acres in the High Bar Harbor region of Barnegat Bay, from Special Restricted to Approved, and 349 acres in Jarvis Sound off Cape May County, from Special Restricted to Seasonally Approved.

DEP is proposing to downgrade 85 acres in the Havens Cove and Island Beach State Park regions of Barnegat Bay from Approved to Seasonally Approved and 235 acres in the Maurice River Cove from Approved to Seasonally Approved. DEP is currently investigating the specific sources of the decline in water quality that led to the largest area of downgrading - in Maurice River Cove, which has a significant oyster resource.

Non-point source pollution is one of the primary contributor to declines in marine water quality. Therefore, Governor McGreevey has aggressively targeted this pollution through his new stormwater rules that went into effect this month.

The state has four classifications for shellfish harvest waters:

  • Prohibited,
  • Special Restricted - shellfish harvested in these areas have to be subjected to purification processes before they are consumable,
  • Seasonal Waters - shellfish harvesting is permissible either from November to April or from January to April, depending on the local activity of people and wildlife and the water quality impacts of seasonal tourists, and
  • Approved - no restrictions on harvesting.

The shellfish bed reclassifications are proposed amendments to the Shellfish Growing Water Classifications, which were published in the January 5, 2004 New Jersey Register and are subject to a 60-day public comment period that ends March 5, 2004.

 

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