Many hands made for light work on Thursday, July 27, as thousands of oysters babies made their way from a pier in Ocean Gate, NJ to a reef in Barnegat Bay.
The big move came on Thursday, July 27 during the American Littoral Society’s Third Annual Parade of Boats. The event, part of Operation Oyster: Barnegat Bay, ferried approximately 25,000 young oysters from the Wildwood Avenue Pier to a man-made reef off Good Luck Point. The parade launched from the Wildwood Avenue Pier in Ocean Gate, NJ.
Among those helping with there move were staff from Rep. Tom MacArthur’s office, Ocean Gate Mayor Paul Kennedy, students and professors from Monmouth and Stockton universities, young people from the Ocean Gate Yacht Club, and residents from nearby communities.
Those on hand had the opportunity to learn about the life cycle of oysters, their history in New Jersey waters, and why our bays and estuaries would benefit from their restoration.
“Barnegat Bay once had thousands of acres of oyster reefs,” Littoral Society Executive Director Tim Dillingham told those present for the event. “We’re working to restore that piece of the bay’s ecosystem because oysters help clean water and the reefs serve as natural barriers to protect the coast during storms.”
Mayor Kennedy noted that this is the third year the Littoral Society has set up an oyster nursery on the pier at the north end of Wildwood Avenue. He added that the spat tank and it’s occupants are welcome members of the community.
Each year in late June or early July the small blue tank on the pier is filled with bags of shells, then seeded with oyster larvae. The larvae attach to the shell and begin to grow into oysters. Larvae that are attached to shell are called spat.
The oyster nursery and reef are part of Operation Oyster, a Littoral Society project aimed at putting oysters back into New Jersey's bays and tidal estuaries. Decades of pollution, accelerated by rampant development, have decimated New Jersey's natural oyster population. Oysters help keep water clean and and oyster reefs help protect the coastline. They are nature's water filters, each one is able to clean up to 50 gallons of water a day. Oyster reefs also serve as speed bumps for waves during storms.
Other partners in the Barnegat Bay project include Jenkinson’s Aquarium, the Barnegat Bay Partnership and ReClam the Bay. The Littoral Society’s Operation Oyster initiative also involves work in the Delaware Bay and New Jersey’s Two Rivers area, as well as the “Shuck It, Don’t Chuck It” shell recycling program.
For information about other ways you can become part of Operation Oyster, contact Pim Van Hemmen, Asst. Director of the American Littoral Society, at 732-291-0055 or email Pim@LittoralSociety.org.