Sandy Hook Bay is a triangular arm of the Raritan Bay along the coast of northern New Jersey. It is formed along the south side of Lower New York Bay by Sandy Hook, a spit of land that protects the bay from the open Atlantic Ocean. Sitting in the shadow of New York City and the Port of New York and New Jersey and home to the American Littoral Society for more than 50 years, Sandy Hook Bay is our region’s urban estuary, holding onto important elements of its rich ecological history and gaining traction along a course of recovery from years of industrialization.
The Shrewsbury River is a tidal estuary flowing into Sandy Hook Bay and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Shrewsbury Navesink estuary, it is home to a diversity of marine and bird life including bluefish (snappers), striped bass, fluke, blue claw crabs, Atlantic menhaden (bunker), black sea bass, tautog, multiple species of killifish, Atlantic croaker, great blue heron, snowy and great egrets, osprey, kingfisher, double breasted and great cormorant, least terns, oystercatcher, and many species of gulls. It is also foraging area for bald eagles with the nearest known nest in the headwaters of the Navesink near the Swimming River Reservoir.
Due to coastal development along its shores, much of the intertidal habitat needed to support juvenile fish and invertebrates has been lost to fill and the effects of bulkheads and other hardened shorelines. Ironically, the dredge spoil islands found at the mouth of the Shrewsbury River, no longer actively used for dredging activities, now serve as wildlife habitat. For example, Shrewsbury Island provides important habitat for nesting species like gulls and terns and the intertidal marsh areas provide important habitat for juvenile fish and invertebrates.
The Navesink River is a major recreational resource for powerboating, crabbing, fishing, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, swimming and rowing. During particularly cold winters, the Navesink can freeze, adding ice skating and ice boating to the list of recreations available to people.
As a tidal estuary flowing to the Shrewbury River at Sea Bright, continuing into Sandy Hook Bay and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean, the Navesink provides excellent fishing for species such as bluefish (snappers), striped bass and fluke. Crabbing is particularly popular in the upstream Swimming river section.
Our focus in Sandy Hook Bay and the Navesink and Shrewsbury River estuary is to conserve the important habitats and open spaces critical to coastal wildife, and to actively work with local residents to restore fisheries habitat. Working with regional conservation partners, we have developed ecological models to identify conservation and restoration priorities, developed and advocated habitat restoration techniques and worked to create “on the ground” demonstration projects to advance broader use of innovative tools like “living shorelines” projects.