MOST NEW JERSEY SHELLFISH BEDS REOPENED, WITH EXCEPTION OF
OYSTER BEDS IN UPPER DELAWARE BAY
(11/P110) TRENTON - Most shellfish beds in New Jersey have been reopened, with the exception of beds in the upper Delaware Bay which remain closed due to lingering water quality concerns, the Department of Environmental Protection announced today.
Beds in the Delaware Bay have been the last to reopen since the passage of Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27-28. The DEP late Thursday issued an order reopening beds in lower Delaware Bay, a vast area off Cumberland and Cape May counties made up primarily of oyster beds.
Oyster beds in the upper bay remain closed because water quality in this area does not meet federal standards. The DEP continues to monitor these beds and will reopen them when water quality and tissue samples meet standards.
Earlier this week, the DEP signed orders returning all of the ocean and estuarine beds from Raritan Bay to Cape May Point to the harvest classification status that was in effect for those beds prior to the hurricane.
Beds in Delaware Bay are nearly exclusively oyster beds, while the beds along the coast are made up primarily of clam beds with some oyster beds.
Since the hurricane, the clamming and oyster industries have assisted by providing the use of boats for DEP staff to collect shellfish tissue samples that must be tested as part of the protocol for ensuring clams and oysters meet federal health guidelines for safe consumption.
"The shellfish industry is very important to New Jersey," Commissioner Bob Martin said. "The New Jersey Shellfish Council and members of the industry proved to be invaluable partners, helping to ensure the beds were reopened safely."
The DEP monitors, classifies and enforces shellfish regulations in 425,830 acres of estuarine beds and 295,857 acres of ocean beds.
The Department of Health and Senior Services' Food Safety Program regularly inspects shellfish processing plants to ensure they follow regulations that outline health and safety precautions. Shellfish samples are regularly collected from harvest areas, certified shellfish dealers and retailers for bacteriological examination.
As Irene approached, the DEP issued a statewide ban on the harvest of shellfish due to concerns over degradation of water quality from large volumes of stormwater. Clams and oysters, like other bivalves such as mussels, are filter feeders that can accumulate harmful bacteria carried into waterways by stormwater. The harvest ban did not affect crabs or lobsters.
For more information, including a map of reopened shellfish beds, visit: www.nj.gov/dep/bmw.