Oyster restoration news and resources

This page is a collection of links and summaries of oyster restoration efforts on a state-by-state basis and around the world. The sources on this page date back to 2009 through 2015. If you have a project that should be included, please write to us.

Not state specific

Worldwide acidification hot zones affecting shellfisheries

February 23, 2015   Nature.org

A 2014 article in Nature Climate Change published online this week at nature.org gives insight into four ocean acidification hot zones affecting the shellfish. One is the mid-Atlantic region including the Delaware and Chesapeake bays. Although the whole problem will takes decades to control, the immediate focus of control measures in our region is on limiting nutrient runoff from agricultural operations.

Delaware

Philadelphia’s Oyster House donating used shells to save Delaware Bay

December 17, 2013  Philly.com

Samson Street Oyster House in Philadelphia is recycling its shells for future restoration efforts. Philly.com reports: “We live in the Delaware Bay estuary, we buy Delaware Bay oysters, we’re selling them, then we’re taking the byproduct – the shells, the waste, basically – and instead of it going to a landfill, we’re putting it back into the bay to become reef for new oysters,” Oyster House owner Sam Mink said. “For us, it’s a win-win. It closes the loop and reduces our trash.”

Del. Bay Oyster Restoration officials will be recognized at Coast Day in Lewes

September 29, 2009   Sussexcountian.com

The Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Project, an ongoing effort to revitalize Eastern oysters in Delaware Bay, will be honored with a 2008 Coastal America Partnership Award. The Coastal America Partnership Award is the only environmental award of its kind given by the White House. The program has two objectives: to enhance survival by providing clean shell to which juvenile oysters can attach and grow, and to maintain the ecology of the bay by sustaining oyster reefs that would otherwise degrade over time due to natural processes.

Florida

Brevard County oyster gardening program

November 8, 2014                Floridatoday.com

Young oysters grown by residents at their docks are transplanted to reefs.

20 tons of shell collected from restaurants

August 29, 2014      Marinediscoverycenter.org

The Shuck and Share Oyster Recycling Project has recycled over 40,000 pounds of oyster shells from by 11 participating local restaurants. This web page also has links to the Mar Discover Center’s volunteer activities.

FL receives $6 million grant for oyster industry restoration

August 29, 2014     perishablenews.com

Florida will receive $6 million from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to assist with the recovery of the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery. Most to be used for oyster reef restoration,

City of Stuart oyster shell recycling program

April 7, 2014     Tcpal.com

The City of Stuart partnered with Florida Oceanographic Society in the Treasure Coast Shell Recycling Program. This program collects discarded oyster, clam and mussel shells from restaurants and recycles them into the estuary to provide a habitat for new oysters. What is notable about this project is that shell is collected in 5 gallon buckets (we presume thousands of them are needed) that are collected weekly. The human labor requirement and the odor control factors if this program must be major considerations. Also, the article mentions that shell are only cleaned for “3 or more months” before deployment. Most other programs let shell sit for a year to remove the organic material before shell is recycled into estuaries.

Waterfront property owners clamoring to become ‘oyster gardeners’

March 13, 2014   Fox News WOGX 51

Fox News reports that the level of support for experiments to repopulate oysters in the 156 mile Indian River Lagoon has been overwhelming. Waterfront property owners signed up for classes as volunteers for the oyster restoration project. Recent deaths of hundreds of pelicans, manatees, and dolphins have been blamed on the poor water quality in the lagoon. Oyster restoration is seem as the means for improving water quality.

Wright’s Landing in St. John’s County protected by man-made oyster reef

February 1, 2013   earth911.com

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used volunteers to collect used oyster shells from coastal restaurants and place them on the shorelines of the Tolomato River. The oysters formed a man-made reef, which acts as a barrier between incoming waves from ships and boats, decreasing the wave’s energy before it hits the Wright’s Landing coastline.

Depleted Oyster beds need time to rest

November 1, 2011  PNJ.com

The cause of oysters die-off in bays near Pensacola remains unclear, but officials contend habitats must be replenished and then given time to rebuild a healthy population. There are no sign that dermo is harming oysters in East Bay.

University of Central Florida students work on living shoreline project

July 10, 2011  Central Florida Future

Florida oyster restorationUCF biology professor Dr. Linda Walters and a team of students lay oyster mats, which is one of the ways to provide natural shoreline protection, at Turtle Mound in New Smyrna.

Students assist with oyster restoration

November 25, 2009     TCPalm.com

40 students from South Fork High School came together to take part in the Oyster Reef Restoration Project

Port St. Lucie oyster restoration

November 20, 2009    TCPalm.com

The Oyster Reef Restoration Project has hit a milestone – more than 50 percent of the oyster reefs planned for installation in the St. Lucie Estuary have been completed.

Residents on Naples Bay growing oysters to improve water quality

NaplesNews.com  September 14, 2009

A cooperative effort of local waterfront homeowners, baby oyster spat from Florida Gulf Coast University and a $5,000 grant from the Texas-based Gulf of Mexico Foundation to pay for the supplies.

Joe’s Bayou is their oyster: Volunteers’ efforts will help prevent shoreline erosion

September 28, 2009   The DestinLog.com

The oyster reef will benefit the environment in several ways. It provides a refuge for juvenile fish and crabs and a feeding ground for game fish. It also helps prevent shoreline erosion. “The physical presence of the reef can break up wave energy and keep the shoreline from eroding,” McDowell said. “After the oyster reef is done, we’ll also plant emergent vegetation along the shoreline to help prevent erosion.”

Georgia

Bagged oyster shell placed in Oatland Island waters

April 12, 2014   WJCL News

The Coastal Conservation Association and Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources spread bagged oyster shells along specific areas around Oatland Island in an effort to revitalize oyster populations. The project totaled 913 bags of oyster shells that totaled about 18,000 pounds.

The Nature Conservancy living shoreline project

2010    The Nature Conservancy

The Living Shoreline Restoration Project is designed to implement and study various techniques for stabilizing eroding habitat, with consideration to the natural ecology of Georgia’s coastal environment. One technique is the creation of oyster reefs. The project is funded in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Louisiana / Gulf of Mexico

Louisiana’s first oyster shell recycling program

MyNewOrleans.com  August 1, 2014

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana recently implemented the state’s first formal oyster shell recycling program to collect shell from New Orleans restaurants. The program is funded with a $1 million grant from Shell.

5 Ways Louisiana Is Saving the Oyster

Louisiana Seafood News  July 13, 2011

Five ways for rebuilding oyster beds being used in Louisiana include 1)Oyster Cultch, 2) Oyster Hatchery, 3) Oyster Stock Budgets, 4)Traceability, and 5) Vessel Monitoring Program.

Erosion control measures

The Advocate, Baton Rouge LA

erosion control with oysters

Oyster shell cages being used for erosion control.

8/10/2009 Hattiesburg.com, based on submitter report

Research shows oyster reef is effective

“A 12-person team of Nature Conservancy staff and volunteers, including eight DuPont employees, spent a Saturday morning fishing in the Bay of St. Louis in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

The fishing expedition was a methodical research project designed to test the ecological benefits of a 15-acre oyster reef restoration site created by the Conservancy and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources this spring.

 

Using four boats, researchers fished for four hours on a rising tide, taking turns casting their rods on and off the reef. Results proved encouraging as 113 fish (including 69 white sea trout) were caught on the newly created oyster reef and 61 were caught off the reef.

 

“This is what we were hoping for,” said Mike Murphy, coastal field representative for The Nature Conservancy in Mississippi. “The main reason for this oyster reef restoration work is to create habitat for a diversity of fish and other aquatic species and to encourage the natural regeneration of other oyster reefs, which help to improve water quality.”

 

The report might have been distributed by The Nature Conservancy to local newspapers but we did not locate the original underlying report.

Oyster gardening kicks off in Mobile Bay

July 9, 2011   Press Register

This oyster gardening program is different from other oyster restoration projects because the oysters that are planted in Mobile Bay are about 3 inches. Planting the oysters in November after they have grown to that size makes them stronger and more likely to survive than oysters typically planted on reefs for restoration. The bigger oysters also will be able to spawn their first spring in the Bay, making even more oysters. The program is sponsored by Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, Auburn University and Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Oyster reefs dropped into place

August 20. 2009   Gulf Breeze News

Deadman’s Island is a thin strip of land located in Pensacola Bay is the victim of constant erosion, is a cultural and historical landmark in the area. Gulf Breeze city officials worked closely with state environment officials and Ecological Consulting Services, Inc. to draft the restoration project designed to stabilize the island and prevent it from disappearing.

Maryland

Maryland getting Florida oyster shell to build reef

December 19, 2013   Bay Journal

Maryland is buying over 112,000 tons of oyster shell from Florida at a price of $6.3 million and paying another $3 million to ship them by rail for use in rebuilding Chesapeake Bay oyster reefs. The shells will be used by Maryland Department of Natural Resources for reef building projects in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank River.

Positive research results for reef rebuilding

May 5, 2013

Results of tests in the Choptank to rebuild oyster reefs that will revitalize the Chesapeake Bay are surprisingly better than expected. The study was the cooperative effort of various groups in Maryland and Virginia.

Demolished Dam Finds New Home Helping Chesapeake Bay Oysters

November 5, 2011 Annapolis Patch

Concrete rubble from the demolished dam on the Patapsco River was moved to a 2 acre site in the Chesapeake Bay where it will be seeded with 4 million oyster spat with the assistance of The Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Oyster Plan May Provide Missing Pieces of Restoration Puzzle

December 18, 2009     Southern Maryland Online

Over the past decade, billions of oysters have been planted in the Chesapeake Bay, pushed off of boats by the thousands to settle on sanctuaries and managed reserves throughout the watershed but results have been impaired by several factors. Habitat degradation, disease and overharvesting have taken their toll on the native oyster, reducing its numbers to less than one percent of peak population.

Maryland’s vision for oysters

Maryland DNR publication  December 4, 2009

Governor O’Malley’s oyster restoration plan.

Our Bay: Oyster gardening gains popularity

October 10, 2009   HometownAnnapolis.com

Maryland restoration oysters

The state’s Marylanders Grow Oysters program is the newest opportunity for people to get involved in raising oysters at their piers. This year, volunteers are growing 1.5 million to 2.5 million oysters in 5,000 cages suspended from piers and docks.

No Oysters Left? Don’t Tell Them

Fredericksberg.com  September 15, 2009

After the Potomac’s public oyster grounds administered by the Potomac River Fisheries Commission have all but succumbed to a pair of oyster diseases and over harvesting, private growers on leased beds were able to restore oyster populations. Yields increased 10 times over last year after planting seed on leased grounds 3 years ago.

Oyster reef in Severn River wins ecosystem award

The Baltimore Sun  August 9, 2009

The Federal Highway Administration has awarded its Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative Award to the Maryland Transportation Authority, the Department of Natural Resources, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other partners for creating the Asquith Creek Oyster Reef in the Severn River last fall. The 3-acre reef provides a sanctuary for 4 million juvenile oysters and was made from demolished concrete from the Bay Bridge Preservation Project. Its purpose is improving the Chesapeake Bay water quality and was done as part of the state’s sustainable growth program, Smart, Green and Growing, created by Gov. Martin O’Malley last year.

Severn River homeowners become oyster caretakers

HometownAnnapolis.com  August 8, 2009

The state Department of Natural Resources employee delivers cages full of baby oysters to homeowners’ piers in the community.

Oyster Viability Is Tested In Mill Creek Watershed

The Washington Post  August 30, 2009

Members of the Southern Maryland Oyster Cultivation Society and the Calvert Marine Museum recently deposited more than 200,000 oysters on test sites in the Mill Creek watershed. The test will help scientists identify locations most likely to support viable oyster communities.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Oyster Project

The Massachusetts Oyster Project is a non-profit oyster restoration program returning the water cleansing mollusks to the estuaries of Boston Harbor.

Wellfleet Harbor Conference

November 20, 3009   Provincetown Banner

Mark Faherty, science coordinator for Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, talked about the oyster habitat restoration project, now underway, which plans to restore wild oyster reefs on land owned by Mass. Audubon off Lieutenant Island. “We are testing three reef-building materials. … And preliminary results indicate a high density of oyster set on the three experimental materials in July, 2009,” he said.

Tending Oysters for Future of Ecosystem

August 14, 2009   Vineyard Gazette

An important part of this collaborative effort that includes the involvement of riparian owners. In the backyard of a private home two 275-gallon seawater tanks serve as a nursery for young oysters. A similar system has operated in the Tisbury Great Pond for years with great success.

Mississippi

Land-based oyster seeding tested

October 21, 2014    WLOX 13

While land-based oyster shell seeding and transplant programs are the norm in other areas, apparently this is new for Mississippi. The program is being tested by a commercial grower and then may be expanded to the public reefs by the state.

New Hampshire

Community-based oyster restoration is thriving

November 17, 2014     Seacoastonline.com

The Oyster Conservationist program is sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and the University of New Hampshire. For the past nine years local residents have helped restore native oysters to the bay.

NH gets grant for oyster restoration

December 29, 2011  Wirenh.com

The Nature Conservancy received a $24,000 grant from the New Hampshire Conservation License Plate Program to help rebuild an oyster reef at the mouth of the Squamscott River.

New Jersey

Oyster gardening agreement reached

September 13, 2011     Paramus Post

New Jersey legislators proposed legislation that would guarantee citizens the right to cultivate oyster gardens following a ban by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection in 2010. The bill’s sponsor announced a resolution was reached between Baykeeper and the DEP pending final outcome of the proposed resolution.

Don’t make the bay wait

August 4, 2009  Asbury Park Press

“Barnegat Bay is in trouble. Everyone can see that. And one study after another has confirmed it. Time is not on the side of those who would delay action. The bay generates an estimated $4.4 million in annual revenue from tourism and commercial fishing for Ocean County”

Hackensack River too dirty to host oysters

July 2, 2011  NorthJersey.com

Rutgers research indicates malformed oyster tissue embedded with tumors, as well as unusually thin shells.

A statement on “PCBs and dioxins stick to river bottom sediments and get taken up by shellfish, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services” does not include reference to source detail. I was unable to find a source. The only result of a search on hhs.gov for “oyster + pcb” said “The presence of toxic chemicals in the aquatic environment leads to the potential for contamination of fish and shellfish. These chemicals include pesticides, other industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) , heavy metals (such as lead, cadmium, and mercury), and petroleum hydrocarbons (emphasis added).

Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Project

Funding for 2011 program funding included the Delaware Bay section of New Jersey Shell Fisheries Council, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Delaware Shellfish Advisory Council, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, DuPont Clear into the Future, PSEG Nuclear and private donors including local restaurants.

Shell-planting program to preserve Delaware Bay oysters nears spending cap

October 2, 2009 NJ.com

oyster restoration boat in Delaware Bay

A shell-planting program in the Delaware Bay that has helped offset dying oyster populations due to warming ocean temperatures has hit a federal funding cap, and supporters are lobbying for more government money arguing it helps the environment and the economy

New Jersey dumps shells in bay to help oysters

October 5, 2009   Fish Information & Services

There are 1.6 billion oysters in the New Jersey’s section of the bay and the annual harvest is limited to 4% of the total population

New York

Sag Harbor plans to teach local schoolchildren about aquaculture

City looks for location to raise seed oysters in cages beneath city docks.

Cornell oyster seeding Project

The article “Growing oysters one volunteer at a time” about North Fork of Long Island is no longer available online.

North Carolina

Oyster larvae attracted to reef sounds

March 16, 2014   Newsobserver.com

Research into the impact of underwater sounds on oyster larvae settlement rates being funded by the  National Science Foundation. Previously, it was widely believed that settlement rates were primarily a function of tidal water flow rates.

Community Program on Oyster Restoration

December 16, 2013  JDNews.com

Hammocks Beach State Park Ranger Jake Vitak will give a presentation at 5:30 p.m. about the collaborative restoration project by the park and the N.C. Coastal Federation to preserve the oyster habitat at Jones Island.

Pender Watch builds oyster reefs to benefit environment

July 11, 2011  Starnewsonline.com

Pender Watch has an oyster shell recycle program in which people can drop off oyster shells to points at several other locations throughout the County. Pender Watch then holds a “shell bagging party” where volunteers come together to bag all the collected shells. A specially made mesh bag, environmentally friendly, is used to hold the shells. The reef building process can then begin. This a joint venture with the University of North Carolina Wilmington and Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina.

Permuda Island restoration

July 09, 2011  ENCtoday.com

NCCF and the state’s Coastal Reserve Program are sponsoring the work as part of a project to clean up debris from a former causeway on Permuda Island in Stump Sound. The N.C. Division of Water Resources is paying for the project, the release states. Volunteers will place about 1,000 bags of recycled oyster shells around the edge of an old causeway and plant over 2,500 marsh-plant seedlings along the shoreline. The shell bags will attract oyster larvae that will attach to the empty shells and start an oyster reef. Once planted the salt marsh seedlings will help stabilize the shoreline and restore marsh habitat in the project area.

Texas

Artificial oyster reef complete in Matagorda Bay

April 14, 2014   Newschannel10.com

The Army Corp of Engineers completed an artificial reef 250 feet by 50 feet in Matagorda Bay to provide structure for oyster recruitment. Expanding on the amplifying effect of these projects, the article says “The reef could cultivate as many as 60 acres of oyster beds. Though a fraction of the size of the natural reefs found a century ago in the bay, new oyster beds could play a dramatic role in restoring the ecosystem.”

Galveston Bay residents ‘planting’ a new crop of oysters

October 2, 2009   The Houston Chronicle

These families are experimenting with “oyster gardening” — using old shells to provide the hard surface upon which oyster larvae can attach and grow. This is one of several creative projects, paid by federal and state grants, under way to restore a small portion of the 8,000 acres of oyster reefs killed when Hurricane Ike buried them in sediment a year ago. Oysters are important to the Texas economy as a food and are also efficient filters that remove contaminants from the water as they feed. A single oyster filters 50 gallons a day.

Virginia

Price of shell rises to $6 per bushel

October 6, 2014     Fredericsburg.com

Reef restoration projects combined with the growing aquaculture business have created a shortage of oyster shells.

Oyster shell restoration underway

January 30, 2014   Bay Journal

A number of groups have come together to work out an oyster shell recycling program in the Richmond area.

Volunteers work to shovel oyster shells out of the dumpster where they've been collected and into baskets for transportation.  (Chesapeake Bay Foundation )

Oysters on the Comeback in Chesapeake Bay, Thanks to Elevated Homes

“The Chesapeake’s oyster reefs were destroyed by centuries of watermen towing rake like metal “dredges” and silted over by dirt flowing from the mid-Atlantic’s farms and growing cities. The final blow came in the mid-20th century: A pair of new diseases killed oysters by the millions. Now, in many places, the bay bottom is a flat expanse of green mud”. My comments focused on the need to consider the environmental value of restoration as separate and distinct from commercial shellfish value and second, to clarify that “elevated Houses” refer to the artificial reef structure, not human’s homes.

Unprecedented Restoration of a Native Oyster Metapopulation

Science Magazine  July 30, 2009

Native oyster species were once vital ecosystem engineers, but their populations have collapsed worldwide because of overfishing and habitat destruction. In 2004, we initiated a vast (35-hectare) field experiment by constructing native oyster reefs of three types (high-relief, low-relief, and unrestored) in nine protected sanctuaries throughout the Great Wicomico River in Virginia, United States. Upon sampling in 2007 and 2009, we found a thriving metapopulation comprising 185 million oysters of various age classes. Oyster density was fourfold greater on high-relief than on low-relief reefs, explaining the failure of past attempts. Juvenile recruitment and reef accretion correlated with oyster density, facilitating reef development and population persistence. This reestablished metapopulation is the largest of any native oyster worldwide and validates ecological restoration of native oyster species.

This report comes from the Department of Fisheries Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, VA 23062, USA.

Oyster gardeners’ hobby replenishes Chesapeake Bay

The Hour Online  August 19, 2009

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation wants more waterfront homeowners to take up oyster gardening.

Oysters Are on the Rebound in the Chesapeake Bay

8/3/2009  New York TimesPrimary source is Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary. Scientists and watermen agree that oysters will grow in current dead zones. Also mentions past federal involvement in Virginia oyster restoration that later became a contentious issue.

One Step Forward; One Step Back

1/10/2018 – In our long-term effort to restore Money Island and redevelop the resources for a future of sustainable aquaculture, it often feels like we are taking one step forward and one step back. Today the two extremes hit particularly hard.

“Fall seven times. Get up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

On December 30 Senator Booker sent an online message to Tony saying that he was interested in receiving more information about Baysave’s project at Money Island. That sparked a flurry of follow-up activity, calls and referrals that kept us busy all week. It is clear from multiple sources that the federal government wants to see us succeed. Early this morning I had a scheduled phone call with one of New Jersey’s best business financing experts. She works in North Jersey but was referred by Stockton SBA and has been helping us for several months. She said that she had brought our redevelopment plan to a lender who wants to fund the project and match the USDA’s program to expand aquaculture here. Great news! I worked on some spreadsheets to support the idea and we scheduled another call for Friday.

Then only a few hours later a representative from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Resources called to say that the state declines to discuss a resolution of the old land use and permitting issues that existed before the Baysave project began. She seemed surprised to support the result. We discussed that this is unusual for the state to refuse to participate in alternate dispute resolution. This is copy of the confirmation letter denying alternative dispute resolution: BaySave ltr from NJDEP.

I can imagine no respectable reason why the state would refuse to enter into discussions on resolution of environmental issues under any circumstances. Most personnel in the department support our efforts. I have occasionally been critical of the agency and once even turned in an employee for attempted bribery years ago. This most recent action, unfortunately, represents the agenda of a small minority of NJDEP officials.

In reality, the state’s action today probably has little to do with us and has more to do with swampy politics. Nevertheless, we will continue to work our restoration and redevelopment plan one step at time, relying on the strong support expressed by the many other forces of government and the community.

Letter to State Senator Jeff Van Drew Urging Action

At the time of republishing on October 22, 2018 the Senator’s office had not replied to the letter or email. A follow-up phone call urging response did not trigger any further response.

May 23, 2018 – This is a copy of an email and the attached letter sent to State Senator Van Drew today. Our community working to sustain Money Island believes that Senator Van Drew is in the best position to influence the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to address the inconsistent and possibly illegal internal actions of a relative few staff members who do not support the larger redevelopment and compliance plans of Money Island.

“Dear Senator Van Drew:

I’ve attached a letter drafted with the help of our community advisers to call your attention to the mean-spirited and sometimes illegal actions of the NJDEP in blocking the sustainable recovery of Money Island, New Jersey since superstorm Sandy. We believe this issue can be resolved by your influence in pushing NJDEP to negotiate with me and our community leaders.

Money Island is the state’s second largest seafood landing point and the planned site of future aquaculture expansion. We serve five local universities and a range of recreational users and environmental tourists. We have a viable plan for a sustainable and fully compliant future as the region’s second largest seafood landing. We are poised to support the anticipated tremendous growth as an aquaculture site. Yet NJDEP has blocked 10 of our 11 attempts at obtaining state permitting over the past five years and now taking legal action against those committed to Money Island’s recovery. I’ve been financially crippled by the Department’s actions and their unwillingness to even hold discussions. This pattern of behavior is not in line with the best interests of public policy nor the leadership of the NJDEP so we think that stronger action is required to address this problem.

I thank you and your staff for your long term support on bayshore issues and I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how we can make this a ‘turning point’  in recovery of our bayshore regional economy and, specifically, the environmental and economic future of our small working waterfront community of Money Island, New Jersey.

Tony Novak, Controller of Baysave Association

Conference on local water politics March 2018

water

I was thrilled to join some of the region’s most involved environmental activists under the leadership of Mark Z. for a great program. Some of the take home lessons:

  • make sure the members of your group have strong ‘talking points’
  • emphasize economic impact and size of constituency when talking to government officials
  • video content is best for social media impact

Hearing the stories of other environmental activists makes me feel more confident that we are on the right track here on the bay.

Sustainable fishing: bigger isn’t better

fishing2

This cartoon by Darrin Bell of The New Yorker illustrates the obsession we have with the false belief that  “bigger is better”. Our State of New Jersey and the Marine Fisheries Council have fallen into the trap that encourages recreational fishermen to harvest the largest breeding stock fish while throwing smaller ones back, often to die.

Our fisheries scientists know that this practice is unsustainable. Yet we as a society refuse to change it. Yet we are not alone. History provides plenty of example where denial of the facts led to extinction of species, even of humans. One thing we do know about extinction is that it happens more rapidly than anyone would have guessed. We are living dangerously when we focus on “bigger is better”.

Sustainable fishing depends on managing the harvest of smaller and more abundant juvenile fish. Large trophy fish should be protected, or at least should not be the target. There is no shame in that, and in fact should be promoted as a positive approach. I’ve been told directly by industry and government leaders that this practice won’t change in my lifetime no matter how loudly the scientific and environmental communities object.

We live in an age where ignoring and/or denying facts is popular. All I can do is to be a voice for the truth. I am individually committed to encouraging sustainable fisheries and my small business will do what it can to change the current culture of “bigger is better”.

“No retreat”: Pros and Cons

no-retreat-save-the-bayshor

A few years ago the deputy mayor of Downe Township, a former neighbor here at Money Island, came up with the idea and we printed a bunch of bumper stickers and signs that said “No Retreat! Save the bay shore communities”. I say ‘we’ because as far as I know the project was paid for with public funds. I didn’t think that government should be involved in a choice that was essentially a private decision about their home or business. Our properties lie on the border of Downe Township and Lawrence Township. Lawrence Township took the opposite approach and vowed to support its residents no matter what they decided to do in reaction to state government property buyouts. The campaign was a great success as far as bumper stickers go. Several years later I still see the ‘No Retreat’ bumper stickers and signs everywhere. The campaign itself was not so successful. Most of my community, including the former local government official who designed the campaign, sold their properties to the state and retreated inland.

For some the ‘No Retreat’ slogan effectively summarizes the political and financial effort to retain all of our taxable real estate assets. Shoreline properties tend to be taxes at the highest rates within a community. Losing them can be financially disastrous to a community. For others, the slogan simply reflects an affinity for the bayshore community or a natural desire to keep family home. At the core of issue is the question: “Can humans survive the challenges of climate change at the bayshore?” For most, the answer has proven to be ‘no’. The financial demands and threats of government forced the decision for most of our neighbors. For me, the answer is ‘yes, but it requires major changes’. Only time will tell how the financial and government challenges will be met for the few businesses or residents that remain. A book coming out next year from Beacon Press covers this episode of local history.

The problem is that the scientists and accountants among us know that “No Retreat” is not a sustainable strategy per se. Virtually all of us who have been involved in sea level rise response planning recognize that we will lose some of our shoreline properties and communities. A reporter reported on the irony that under the force of a strong new moon tide, he saw the “No Retreat” signs floating down the flooded roadway. Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and other states are heavily involved in stakeholder discussions about how to handle this natural force. New Jersey lags far behind in this process. Some politicians still question the state’s official sea level rise projection that calls for some of our communities to be completely inundated within our lifetime.

The fact is that the overwhelming majority of community planners believe that strategic retreat is the best available strategy as a response to sea level rise. We will undoubtedly save some of our present waterfront and technology will allow some businesses – like aquaculture – to survive and even thrive in this new high water environment. But the older homes along the bayshore will eventually be swallowed up by the forces of erosion; the combined effect of more water and higher levels of destructive energy in the water.

The first wave of buyouts here at Money Island is complete. Next month the tear-downs will begin. A second wave of tear-downs will follow.

I predicted this series of events in a blog post and many public discussions. As an early forecaster of the trend, I was sometimes blamed for its impact. I still believe that this section of the bayshore needs to retreat to its commercial roots – fishing, shellfish, and aquaculture – but use new technologies to ensure sustainability for coming generations. The loss of our bayside vacation communities is a sad but inevitable development for many of us.

sunset over Bayview Road in Money Island were houses are scheduled for demolition next month.

Half million dollar sea wall brings 30 year sustainability to Money Island

This post was originally published September 15, 2015.

In 2004 a small group of neighbors on Bayview Road in Money Island gathered together to promote a common cause under the name eventually adopted “Money Island Improvement Association”. The road had already crumbling under the force of rising sea levels and the only way that neighbors could reach their properties was to cut across my front yard. There were clear signs that our bridge would eventually collapse under the pressure of increased water flow underneath the road. Several neighbors had already lost their houses and land.

We lobbied government at every level. Over the past twelve years I’ve personally had hundreds of discussions to promote the project. I handed out flyers and hosted neighborhood meetings. Not everyone was comfortable with my activists efforts to bring attention to the project. I even received a telephone death threat from one official and was physically assaulted by a neighbor as a result of these efforts. Downe Township joined the effort.

Five years later in 2009 a grant was issued. At the grant ceremony covered by NJ.com in October 2009 Downe Township Mayor Renee Blizzard thanked Money Island residents for their persistence and specifically cited me for my patience and support of the project. Downe Township’s current Mayor Campbell took up the cause in recent years.

Now, this week, we finally broke ground with the project. I feel like this is a tangible example of grass roots efforts can really produce results despite the challenges posed by government and naysayers. Our effort is not over yet. The installation of the bulkhead will increase pressure on the bridge and neighboring properties. It will be necessary to eventually replace or fortify these as well. We recognize that it could be an another twelve year effort. But right now it makes sens to take a breather and recognize how far we’ve come.

The bulkhead project was finished in 2016 and is expected to last at least 30 years.

MI grant ceremony 001MI grant ceremony 005bulkhead

How to address climate change deniers

Responding to climate change deniers can be tedious. It’s tough to know how to deal with people who form an opinion based on news sites and social media and value their own conclusions over those of the  overwhelming majority of actual subject matter experts. Despite overwhelming amount of confirming evidence in the science community, we’ve seen a corresponding increase in skepticism over the validity of this independent peer reviewed body of work confirming the basic climate change findings. This excerpt from a letter from Governor Jerry Brown to Dr. Ben Carson on September 10, 2015 is one way to respond:

“Please find enclosed a flash drive with the complete United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ‘Synthesis Report,’ the concluding installment of the Fifth Assessment Report, published earlier this year. This report assessed over 30,000 scientific papers and was written by more than 800 authors representing 80 countries around the world who definitively concluded that “human influence on the climate system is clear and growing with impacts observed across all continents and oceans.”

This is just one of the thousands of reports authored by the world’s top scientists on the subject, including a study published last month by Columbia University, University of Idaho and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies scientists that found climate change has intensified California’s drought, These aren’t just words. The consequences are real.

Please use your considerable intelligence to review this material. Climate change is much bigger than partisan politics.”

It occurs to me that there are plenty of others in the category we label as “deniers” who would benefit from becoming familiar with this massive body of research.

Good News on Money Island and Bay Water Quality

The Delaware River Basin Commission collects water samples periodically and publishes data about bacteria levels in the Delaware Bay. Four of the collection points are south of our location at Money Island NJ and are therefore could be affected by discharge from the bayshore communities in this local region. The primary factor of concern, especially in summer, is the level of e. coli bacteria, also known as fecal coliform. The data published on the State of New Jersey’s web site indicated that levels of fecal coliform have been minimal or not detected at all collection points in the Delaware bay south of us at Money Island.

This data is especially important because an improperly designed water quality test conducted in the summer of 2014 was misconstrued to imply that broken septic systems were contributing to fecal coliform levels in the Nantuxent Cove and in the bay around Money Island. Some environmentalists in the American Littoral Society and the Cumberland County Department of Health apparently misinterpreted last year’s report to mean that higher levels of reported bacteria were coming from human source discharge.  The test has since been discredited and its authors have disclaimed some of the methodology. All other tests prior to and after this have indicated a healthy level of fecal coliform in our waters.  The last comprehensive report on our water quality was published in 2012. (Since the date of this original post, a 2016 report was published. This report , page 43, confirms positive findings for the Delaware Bay region’s fecal coliform tests).

In general, the mid and lower bay region has lower levels of bacteria than water bodies further north.

The test result data is summarized in this table. For complete information, see the test results for each individual month.

Fecal Coliform Summary Data

Collection Points:
Mahon River Crossledge Joe Flogger Brown’s Shoal
June 2015 Not detected Not detected Not detected 1
July 2015 Not detected Not detected Not detected Not detected
August 2015 Not detected 1 Not detected Not detected
September 2015 7 Not detected Not detected Not detected

A fecal coliform level of 200 is considered to be the maximum safe standard for this test.