Jersey Shore Magazine

Fall/Holiday 2013

Jersey Shore Magazine

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Page 30 of 99

overwash of sand and sediment could potentially cover beds, damaging an already limited resource and further harming the bay's ecology. From initial visual observations, Kennish and his team have noticed increased shoaling (sandbars) in an eelgrass area near Lavallette. "If there is shoaling where beds existed last year—that's a problem," Kennish stated. Complicating this may be the existence of pollution caused by overturned boats, household debris, and other toxic materials. Contaminants in the bay's sediment pre-Sandy—like PCBs and DDT—could have been stirred up by the storm as well. "What is the distribution of hazardous materials in the bay? What are the hazardous materials? No one really knows at this point," Kennish remarked. It's too soon to tell what the damage from Sandy did to the eelgrass beds, as scientific studies take time and many other variables need to be considered. Kennish's study is currently being conducted and should be completed by year's end. However, Kennish cautions that the decline in the beds and its effect on the bay was a problem before and will continue to be an issue after Sandy. He stated, "Any casual observer can see the bay is hurting." Eelgrass bed impacted by macroalgae. j e r s e y s h o r e • F a l l / h o l i d a y 2 0 1 3 Michael J. Kennish, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University Healthy eelgrass serving as a habitat for blue crabs. Shellfish: Sentinels of Water Quality One of the first signs that the bay was returning to pre-Sandy conditions was the opening of the shellfish beds. These beds have to be monitored carefully for water quality—the local shellfish industry depends on it. "Shellfish are sentinels to measure how polluted waters are," Kennish said. Like eelgrass, oysters and clams filter particles such as nutrients, sediment, and algae. One oyster can clean up to five liters of water per hour. In the past, clams and oysters were abundant sources of food for both Native Americans and colonists. The industry peaked in the 1800s, spawning baymen whose livelihoods depended on shellfishing. Shellfish began a sharp decline in the 1900s, in part from overfishing and disease, but also due to the storm of 1919. It changed Beach Haven Inlet, affecting water salinity and smothering oyster reefs with sediment, stated Dr. Gustavo W. Calvo, biologist, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, in his report Shellfish Enhancement in Barnegat Bay. In 2005, ReClam the Bay was started by the Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Program to build clam and oyster upwellers (nurseries) in order to repopulate the bay. "If you reclam the bay, you would re-claim the bay," became the organization's rallying cry. This past year, one million baby clams and 300,000 baby oysters were grown and planted in protected areas of the bay. After Sandy, shellfish advocates were understandably concerned. Similar conditions to the storm of 1919 arose as ocean breaches ushered in salt water and sand to the bay, potentially smothering beds. "In Holgate, we just planted juvenile clams and oysters a week before Sandy hit," said Rick Bushnell, President of ReClam The Bay. Unfortunately, this bed was damaged by Sandy; however, this seems to be continued on page 32 31

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