Rauf on the Ropes

Hunting and Fishing News: Oyster Task Force Issues Funding Challenge

VINELAND, N.J. — The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary has issued a challenge for would-be sponsors to help fund the continued restoration of Delaware Bay oysters.  This call to action came during the Rotary Club of Vineland New Jersey’s weekly luncheon at the Ramada of Vineland on Tuesday.

Jennifer Adkins, executive director of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, pledged $50,000 to the bi-state program if others would commit the additional $150,000 needed by April.  Joining her were two fellow members of the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Task Force: Dr. Eric Powell, director of Rutgers University’s Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, and Robert Tudor, deputy executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission.

The Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Project needs a minimum of $200,000 to continue spreading new shell in the bay using a technique called “shell planting.”  Efforts to secure additional federal funds have been unsuccessful, despite the program’s success.  Now those who manage it are trying to raise money to continue in 2011.
“This money is needed to revitalize oyster reefs before the summer spawning season,” Adkins said.  “Otherwise, countless baby oysters, or ‘larvae,’ may never mature to filter the bay’s water, provide habitat for marine life, and reach a marketable size for the seafood industries of Delaware and New Jersey.”
A century ago, southern New Jersey was regarded as “The Oyster Capital of the World.”  Yet without continued restoration, oyster harvests may decline to lows not seen since the early 2000s.
“The good news is that we have a proven method to increase recruitment and thereby increase oyster abundance and sustain a higher harvest,” said Dr. Powell.  “The planting of shell is the single most important economic and ecological step to maintaining the health of the oyster beds and the industry.”
According to Powell, the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Project’s return on investment ranged from $25 to $50 for every $1 spent.  Last year’s Delaware Bay oyster harvest had a dockside value of $3.2 million and an economic impact of $19.3 million, thanks in part to restoration.  And this year’s oysters are fetching more: upwards of $50 per bushel─perhaps the most in the nation.
Shell planting is necessary in Delaware Bay for two reasons.  It enhances oyster survival by providing a clean, hard surface to which juvenile oysters can attach and grow, and it maintains the ecology of the bay by sustaining oyster reefs that would otherwise degrade naturally over time.  This has helped the population to rebound after being decimated by a duo of parasites: MSX in the 1950s and Dermo in the 1990s.
Please visit DelawareEstuary.org to learn more about the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Project.  To donate to its 2011 shell-planting season, please contact Karen Johnson, director of development at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, at (800) 445-4935, extension 101, or KJohnson@DelawareEstuary.org.
Members of the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Task Force include the:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
Rutgers University’s Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory
Delaware River Basin Commission
Partnership for the Delaware Estuary
Delaware State University’s College of Agriculture and Related Sciences
Delaware River and Bay Authority
Cumberland Empowerment Zone Corporation
Delaware Bay Section of the Shell Fisheries Council
Delaware Shellfish Advisory Council
Commercial Township, New Jersey