DEP Seeks Public Input on Update to Delaware Estuary Plan That Will Serve as Roadmap to Protect Unique Natural Resource - DEP News Release, 7/5/18
Shellfish Aquaculture Leasing Policy - Atlantic Coast (pdf, 14.0mb, 4/18/18)
The Bureau of Shellfisheries directs shellfish programs and projects on both the Atlantic Coast and Delaware Bay. Bureau personnel form and implement plans for the protection and wise use of marine habitat and the state’s shellfish resources.
One the bureau’s major responsibilities is the review of coastal development projects to assess potential impacts on shellfisheries habitat and resources. The bureau reviews 200-300 permit applications annually (334 in FY’97) and provides resource information to the Land Use Regulation Program to assist in the permit process. Bureau personnel regularly provide expert testimony at Administrative Law Hearings related to permit appeals. Finally, bureau staff are continually involved with other department staff in revisions to the Rules on Coastal Zone Management to ensure that shellfish resources and important coastal habitat are protected despite persistent development pressures.
With the Shellfisheries Council, the bureau administers the shellfish leasing program which supports private aquaculture activities via the leasing of bay bottom for shellfish culture. Statewide, approximately 30,000 acres of bay bottom are currently leased by commercial interests, primarily for the culture of oysters and hard clams.
Prior to the issuance of any shellfish lease within the Atlantic Coast Section, the bureau performs a biological investigation to assess the area’s natural productivity. Each year the bureau performs approximately 30-50 biological investigations of prospective leases.
Naturally productive areas are not leased because the bureau and the Atlantic Coast Shellfish Council (empowered by statute to grant shellfish leases) want these areas to remain open for all shellfishers to use. This process facilitates aquaculture development while ensuring that naturally productive areas remain available for use by all.
The relay and depuration programs allow hard clams from moderately polluted waters to be utilized. Clams from such waters are transplanted to clean bay waters or processed in a state-approved depuration plant for purification.
The annual sampling of the Mullica River oyster seed beds is performed to monitor setting success, survival and overall bed condition.
The oyster industry of Delaware Bay operates with limited direct marketing of oysters from natural seed beds. This program was initiated in the spring of 1996 when the industry elected to forego the traditional transplant program and began marketing oysters from the seed beds as a means of circumventing the disease problems which have plagued the leased grounds since the 1950s. Prior to this plan, the seed beds were worked intensely during a limited period in the spring and as a result large volumes of oysters were transplanted and perished on the leased grounds.
Through contributions made to the Oyster Resource Development Fund by the industry and money received from the Coastal Zone Management Program, the bureau was able to plants clean cultch (shell) material on the seed beds during June. A major component of maintaining and enhancing the natural seed beds is the regular addition of cultch which provides the ideal surface to which the young oysters attach. Data support that the addition of clean shell to the seed beds during the setting season is one of the most viable management techniques for increasing the production potential.
The Bureau of Shellfisheries conducts a trawl survey for juvenile finfish in Delaware Bay. This estuary is considered to be an important spawning/nursery area for many fish species of commercial and recreational importance. All finfish and other organisms are identified to the lowest possible taxonomic level (usually species) and counted. All fish (at least a subsample of 20 individuals) and blue crabs are measured to the nearest millimeter. This information provides the basis for comparing the strength of the year class for each individual species over time and can be used as a barometer for monitoring stock conditions and the impact of fishery management programs. Data can be used to forecast future seasonal characteristics and harvest potential for blue crabs in Delaware Bay.
The surf clam (Spisula solidissima) fishery is one of New Jersey’s most valuable fisheries. More than 80% of the total Mid-Atlantic and New England area catch of surf clams are landed in New Jersey. An annual inventory is conducted in New Jersey territorial waters to provide current information on the status of the resource. This information is used to develop various management measures such as establishing season harvest quotas and conservation zones.
The primary objective of the Shellfish Inventory Program is to determine the distribution and abundance of the important molluscan species which occur in New Jersey’s estuaries. The program provides valuable information on the major shellfish species, water quality information and sediment classification. This baseline data is necessary for the development of management strategies designed to preserve shellfish habitat and enhance our shellfish resources.
All estuarine waters between Raritan Bay and Brigantine (inclusive) have been sampled since the inventory began in 1983. Personnel and budgetary constraints from 1988 through most of the early 2000s resulted in fieldwork limited to that associated with lease ground surveys and site inspections of potential coastal development activities. In 2011, the program was renewed and since then it is the Administration's goal to inventory a new estuary every year.
Shellfish Stock Assessment in the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers (Survey Year 2015) (pdf, 7.1mb)
Hard Clam Stock Assessment of Raritan and Sandy Hook Bays (Survey Year 2000) (pdf, 21mb)
Shellfish Stock Assessment of Little Egg Harbor Bay (Survey Year 2001) (pdf, 1.1mb)
Shellfish Stock Assessment of Little Egg Harbor Bay (Survey Year 2011 (pdf, 4.4mb)
Inventory of NJ's Estuarine Shellfish Resources: Hard Clam Stock Assessment Barnegat Bay (Survey Year 2012) With Post-Superstorm Sandy Investigation (Survey Year 2013) (pdf, 3.7mb)
Inventory of NJ's Estuarine Shellfish Resources: Hard Clam Stock Assessment of Raritan and Sandy Hook Bays (Survey Year 2014) (pdf, 5.1mb)