Navy teams with NY/NJ Baykeeper to help increase oyster population

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LEONARDO -

The United States Navy and the NY/NJ Baykeeper are teaming up to help increase the oyster population in New Jersey.

News 12 New Jersey caught up with Navy sailors as they loaded up a boat at the Leonardo State Marina with thousands of tiny, baby oysters attached to cement blocks. The blocks will be seeded at the bottom of the Raritan Bay.

The project is part of an effort to build an experimental oyster reef at Naval Weapons Station Earle. It's an attempt to re-establish oysters in Raritan Bay, where they once comprised miles of reefs. The reef was wiped out by the 1920s from overfishing, pollution and disease.

“So we're doing this project to fortify the coastline, here at Earle, as well as to increase habitat for all the critters out there. And of course oysters filter the water so for water quality,” says Meredith Comi, who is running the operation for the Baykeeper.

One might wonder why the U.S. military is involved in this project. The Baykeeper used to have experimental reefs in Red Bank and Keyport. But in 2011 the Christie administration made them pull those reefs out of the water because they were afraid they might find their way into the food supply and make people sick. The only place Baykeeper can have a reef now is where the oysters are protected by the Navy.

“Since the Navy inherently provides security to our pier 24/7, it was a good fit,” says Navy public affairs specialist Bill Addison.

Baykeeper reports that last fall they saw the oysters they put on that reef at Earle reproduce on their own for the first time. They call it a major step forward.

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