The NY/NJ Baykeeper and the Rutgers Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability oyster team received a permit from New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to utilize 10.7 acres of Navy property for to expand oyster restoration and research.
In 2010, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) banned oyster-related research in northern New Jersey waters and closed down NY/NJ Baykeeper's oyster research reefs in Keyport Harbor and the Navesink River, because DEP viewed the reefs as a poaching risk. Not content to terminate its New Jersey oyster research program, NY/NJ Baykeeper approached the Navy about placing oyster nets at Naval Weapons Station Earle, which is under 24/7 security, and therefore eliminates any poaching risk.
In October, 2011, the Baykeeper/ Rutgers team hung bags of oysters to test their over-winter survival rate. Based on the high survival and growth rate, the location was determined to be ideal for additional oyster restoration research and the team applied to NJDEP for a permit to expand the research reef.
Under the new permit, Baykeeper and Rutgers will construct a new experimental oyster reef using three types of oyster support structures, 1) Reefblk, 2) Reef Ball, and 3) a cargo pallet, within a 0.25 acre footprint. Oyster spat on shell will be housed within the structures and oysters will be set directly onto the Reef Balls.
"We still hope that NJ DEP will revisit its oyster restoration research ban and allow scientific research to flourish in order to help repair Raritan Bay and its tributaries," said Baykeeper Debbie Mans, "but we thank DEP for approving the permit to advance this important scientific research at Naval Weapons Station Earle.
Oysters are vital to the ecological integrity of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary and Baykeeper has been working to restore oyster beds in NY and NJ waters since 1999. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Hudson-Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan (CRP) calls for oyster restoration in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, primarily in the Raritan Bay. The oyster nets at Naval Weapons Station Earle furthered Baykeeper and Rutgers' scientific work to test the viability of that restoration plan. Dr. Beth Ravit of Rutgers said, "The Earle research is critical in helping us to understand where in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary oysters can actually survive under today's conditions. To achieve the HRE Comprehensive Restoration Plan, specific locations must be identified and should be tested using the Baykeeper-Rutgers Restoration Model."
"The Navy has been a fantastic partner," said Meredith Comi, Oyster Restoration Program Director. "They value the health of the Estuary and have been dedicated to this project from the beginning."