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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2006

Contact: Karen Hershey (609) 984-1795
Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994

DEP OPENS OYSTER RESTORATION SITE TO HARVESTING

(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 harvesting.”

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.

 

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Last Updated: April 20, 2006