Oysters are vital to the ecological integrity of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary. They clean the water, provide habitat for other species and can provide shoreline protection. New Jersey DEP should be working to facilitate oyster research and restoration, not grind it to a halt.
Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) reefs are gone from the Hudson-Raritan Estuary (HRE), and with them went their numerous water quality and habitat benefits. Oysters enhance subtidal habitat by filtering high volumes of particles from the water column, thus cleaning the water, and by providing feeding, breeding, and nursery habitat for multiple marine species and rich feeding grounds for shorebirds. Oyster reefs can also provide shoreline protection if they are large enough to break up heavy wave action on a shoreline.
As you know, in August 2010, NJ DEP banned research, restoration, and education projects using oysters in waters classified as “Restricted” or “Prohibited” for shellfish. This essentially deems the vast majority of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary off-limits for oyster restoration. DEP’s ban shut down research (permitted by DEP for ten years) that was just beginning to yield important information on the feasibility of oyster survival and restoration in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary (HRE).
Since implementing the ban, NJ DEP has done nothing to improve water quality in the HRE or to do anything to facilitate oyster restoration and research. NJ DEP should be supporting oyster restoration and research in this region and allow these important projects to move forward.
I hope that one of your resolutions for 2012 is to lift the ban on oyster restoration and research.