US Navy Helps Return Oysters to NJ Bay in Environmental Effort

Story Number: NNS111006-14Release Date: 10/6/2011 4:39:00 PM
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By Mike Brady, Naval Weapons Station Earle Public Affairs

EARLE, N.J. (NNS) -- Representatives from the NY/NJ Baykeeper organization successfully inserted 3,600 oysters into Raritan Bay adjacent to the Naval Weapons Station (NWS) Earle pier complex, a yearlong process completed Oct. 6.

Until the early 20th century, Raritan Bay was a thriving breeding ground for oysters and a well-known source for shellfish. Unfortunately, as the bay became polluted due to industrial runoff, the oyster colonies died off and disappeared. Now that the bay has become less polluted, the NY/NJ baykeepers are seeking to return oysters to the bay.

Oysters provide a natural filtration system that could further enhance efforts to return the waters of the bay to a cleaner state. The first step in returning oysters to the bay is to conduct experimentation and research into whether oysters can in fact survive there. A previous effort by the Baykeepers to establish an oyster colony off Keyport, N.J. ended in failure in 2010 when the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ordered the oyster colony destroyed over concern that the colony could not be properly monitored or protected from illegal poaching. At this point, the Navy entered the picture.

It was clear that establishing oyster colonies adjacent to the trestle would have no impact on accomplishment of NWS Earle's ordnance mission. Working closely with the N.J. DEP and the Baykeeper group, Capt. Fuzz Harrison, commanding officer of NWS Earle, and his environmental staff were able to help work through the extensive DEP approval process.

DEP concern over potential poaching of the oysters was alleviated by the fact that the waters surrounding the NWS Earle piers and trestle are in a protected and patrolled security zone with ample procedures in place to keep unauthorized personnel out. With the approval from DEP in place, 3,600 oysters were placed in six locations adjacent to the NWS Earle trestle Oct. 5-6. With hopes that the oysters will be able to survive the sometimes harsh New Jersey winter, and possibly even thrive, the baykeepers will return in the spring to evaluate the survival and growth rates of the experimental oysters. If the experiment proves successful, they will continue efforts to help return the bay to its natural state.

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Dr. Beth Ravitt, from Rutgers University, left, and Frank Steimle drop oyster cages into Raritan Bay from the Naval Weapons Station Earle trestle.
111006-N-ZZ999-001 NAVAL WEAPONS STATION EARLE, N.J. (Oct. 6, 2011) Dr. Beth Ravitt, from Rutgers University, left, and Frank Steimle drop oyster cages into Raritan Bay from the Naval Weapons Station Earle trestle. (U.S. Navy photo by Michael Brady/Released)
October 6, 2011
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