Little Egg Harbor: Effective sunrise (6:35am) on April 5, 2013 all of the New Jersey State waters within Barnegat Bay south of a line crossing the bay starting at the southern point of the mouth of Thompsons Creek (74°18'40.42"W / 39°35'46.02"N) to a point on Long Beach Island at the end of 5th St in Beach Haven (74°14'29.70"W / 39°34'04.70"N) to Little Egg Harbor Inlet are reopened to their prior classification for oyster harvesting only.
The procedures for re-opening closed shellfish areas that have been impacted by pollutants are outlined in the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations' National Sanitary Shellfish Program (NSSP) Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish. Failure to follow U.S. Food and Drug Administrations' NSSP guidance would put at risk our ability to ship shellfish out of state, potentially shutting down the nation's second largest shellfish industry estimated at generating $876 million which supports 5,800 full-time jobs.
As a result of Hurricane Sandy, there were a number of sewage treatment plant bypasses, pump station failures and sanitary sewer system surcharges resulting in the release of sanitary waste into our coastal waters. After the storm, waters must be monitored for bacteria and viruses before they can be reopened to shellfish harvest to ensure public health and safety. The Department of Environmental Protection will continue to monitor bacteria levels until the water quality returns to within standards. Once that has occurred, the DEP must wait 7 days for the shellfish, which are filter feeders, to purge themselves of the bacteria. After the 7 days, the DEP collects actual samples of the shellfish and tests the tissue of the animals using a coliphage test, which takes 24 hours. If bacteria are within NSSP criteria, the shellfish area may be reopened by the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection. We are committed to reopening New Jersey’s water to shellfish harvest as soon as possible and Boat Captains and Lab staff will be working 24/7 over the next few weeks.
The DEP works cooperatively with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the safety of shellfish harvested from state waters. The DEP monitors, classifies and enforces shellfish regulations in 425,830 acres of estuarine beds and 295,857 acres of ocean beds. The DHSS 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. The program oversees a certification program which requires all wholesale shellfish dealers to handle, process, and ship shellfish under sanitary conditions and maintain records verifying that the shellfish were obtained from approved areas.
The DEP is working as hard as possible to reopen shellfish harvesting but must also be diligent in protecting public health and the shellfish industry.