New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay is a 75-square mile estuary with 42 miles of shoreline from the Point Pleasant Canal north to Little Egg Harbor Inlet. Barnegat Bay plays an important role as the cradle of the ocean. The Bay contains vital spawning grounds, nurseries and feeding grounds for many species. Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems on earth, comparable in biomass production to tropical rain forests or coral reefs; they contain more life per square inch than the richest farmland or deepest forest. The Bay is crucial to a $3.4 billion NJ shore economy including tourism, boating, fishing and real estate values.
Barnegat Bay’s watershed is 660 square miles and includes all of Ocean County and small portions of 4 municipalities in Monmouth County. The year-round population of more than 560,000 nearly doubles to more than 1 million during the summer tourism months.
Unfortunately, more than 35% of the Bay’s watershed lands has been altered by development. Because of disturbance to the natural lands in the watershed, large amounts of polluted stormwater runoff enters the groundwater, storm drains, and waterways that empty into the Bay. An overabundance of nitrogen and other harmful pollutants from fertilizer, pet waste, deforestation, septic systems, and even air pollution is radically altering the Bay’s natural ecosystem. As a result, many of the resources the Bay provides are in drastic decline. Harvest of bay scallops is down 91% and statewide shellfish license sales have declined 57% over a 24-year period from 17,240 in 1980 to 7,404 in 2004. Oysters disappeared from the estuary long ago. Today only a few commercial clammers remain from what was once over 900. Increased presence of stinging jellyfish (sea nettles) and slimy green algae are diminishing recreational uses of the Bay.
To restore the health of Barnegat Bay we advocate for policies, laws and regulations that protect the resource; we collaborate and form resource-protective partnerships with fellow environmental organizations; we educate and empower individuals, agencies and elected officials about what they can do to bring our Bay back to life through business roundtable groups and community action programs like Bayscape for Barnegat Bay and Businesses for a Better Barnegat Bay; we research and implement new and innovative stormwater restoration projects like Replumbing the Bay; and we restore shallow water habitat through community-based shellfish restoration projects and innovative approaches to shoreline erosion like living shorelines to ruther improve the ecosystem.