The NY/NJ Baykeeper organization lowered thousands of tiny baby oysters into the Raritan Bay Thursday, in a test that they hope will guide scientists in their goal to bring back beneficial oyster reefs to the waters off the Bayshore.
Tiered lantern nets filled with fledgling oysters were lowered from the pier at , in the Leonardo section of Middletown. Inside the nets, some of the oysters were clinging to clam shells while others were floating free. The experiment is to see how many of them will survive the winter in the active waters.
Rutgers environmental scientist Beth Ravit said she was thrilled that nine months of negotiations between the Navy, the Baykeeper and state officials had lead to . In July 2010, the oyster restoration research off Keyport had been halted by concerns that the shellfish in what the NJDEP called "contaminated waters" could be harvested for market.
"We are satisfied that this location is highly secure, and we do not envision anybody to illegally harvest these oysters," said Ravit. "So we are thrilled that the compromise that was reached supported by the Navy, and Baykeeper, and the state of New Jersey is protecting human health — but at the same time is allowing scientific research to go forward."
The Baykeeper organization believes that the beneficial filtering behavior of oysters would be an effective way to bring robust marine life back to the Raritan Bay.
The NY/NJ Baykeeper organization will pull up the lantern nets next spring. The results will give them important information that could guide future oyster reef restoration projects.