Monday, January 14, 2013

Reopening Shellfish Beds in NJ After Hurricane Sandy

The Department of Environmental Protection has continued to reopen shellfish beds that they had closed to commercial and recreational harvesting on October 29, 2012 in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. The closing was because of concerns over the degradation of coastal water quality from the storm.

Shellfish is both a culinary and fisheries term for exoskeleton-bearing aquatic invertebrates used as food. This includes various species of mollusks, crustaceans, and echinoderms.

Although most kinds of shellfish are harvested from saltwater environments, some kinds are found only in freshwater.

Despite the name, shellfish are not a kind of fish, but are simply animals that live in water. Many varieties of shellfish (crustaceans in particular) are actually closely related to insects and arachnids, making up one of the main classes of the phylum Arthropoda.

Cephalopods (squid, octopus, cuttlefish) and bivalves (clams, oysters) are mollusks (or molluscs), as are snails and slugs.

Quahogs are a hard clam familiar yo New Jerseyeans. They are found in estuaries
where the water is relatively warm and salt water mingles with fresh.
Quahog (ko-hog) is from the Narragansett Indians' word for the clams, "poquauhock."
These are the shells they used to carve the purple and white wampum beads used for trading.

At our tables, we are likely to see clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops. Popular crustaceans at the dinner table are shrimp, lobster, crayfish, and crabs. Echinoderms are not as frequently harvested for food as molluscs and crustaceans, however sea urchin roe is quite popular in many parts of the world.

Beds in the Raritan Bay remain closed until further notice due to intermittent bypasses of temporary pumps at the Sayreville pump station in the Raritan River resulting from storm damage from Hurricane Sandy. The DEP is continuing to monitor water quality and shellfish tissue, and will reopen shellfish beds in the remaining closed areas when monitoring and sampling criteria are met.

In late December, the northern end of Barnegat Bay was reopened following water monitoring and tissue sampling that found no issues with contamination from bacteria or viruses as a result of the storm. The area of Barnegat Bay reopened for shellfish harvesting is north of the Mathis Bridge, also known as the Route 37 Bridge, in Toms River.

Earlier on November 11, the DEP reopened shellfish beds in Delaware Bay from Lower Alloways Creek south to Cape May Point. On November 14, the DEP reopened shellfish beds in Atlantic coastal waters from Little Egg Inlet south to Cape May Point. On Dec. 7, the shellfish beds in the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers in Monmouth County were reopened, followed by the reopening of the beds in Sandy Hook Bay on Dec. 14

More information and a map of reopened shellfish beds

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