DEP OPENS OYSTER RESTORATION SITE
(06/28) TRENTON -- Commissioner Lisa
P. Jackson today announced that the Department of Environmental
Protection has opened a Delaware Bay oyster restoration site to
commercial harvesting. The Bennies Sand project site, which had
been closed for more than two years, now produces almost 60 percent
of all of the marketable oysters in the 600-acre harvest area.
“Revitalization has strengthened the oyster population and
given a boost to the industry, which is important to the economy
of New Jersey’s bayshore region,” said Commissioner
Jackson. “Projects like this create new jobs and improve
the quality of life for those who make their livelihood from oyster
The six-acre seedbed was the site of a revitalization project
aimed at increasing the oyster resource in the bay. This project
received $300,000 in funding from the DEP and an additional $450,000
from Congress, the Cumberland Empowerment Zone and the Delaware
River and Bay authority.
The project is an expansion of DEP’s 2003 pilot project
that enhanced an oyster seedbed in the Delaware Bay with the planting
of 30 million oysters. The 2003 project resulted in a spat settlement
rate that was 81 times greater than natural production rates.
A recent survey by the Rutgers University Haskins Shellfish Research
Laboratory estimates that the restoration site will add 13,393
bushels to the 2006 oyster harvest. The increased harvest is expected
to have a dockside value of $468,000 to $530,000.
Oyster larvae require a clean, hard surface for growth, but the
sources of these shells have diminished over the years. The restoration
project focuses on increasing the number of juvenile oysters through
a shell-planting program in the central and lower Delaware Bay.
Congress recently provided an additional $2 million in funding
for Delaware and New Jersey to share equally to further increase
oyster production in the Delaware Bay.
In addition to their economic value, oysters play an important
role in the bay’s ecosystem. They provide habitat for a variety
of organisms, which are dependent upon oyster reefs for spawning,
foraging and nursing. Through their high filtration capacity, oysters
can even improve water quality.