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Project Will Provide Environmental and Commercial Benefits

Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen) today hailed the agreement reached between the state and environmental groups to allow for the resumption of the test cultivation of oysters in New Jersey waters, an environmentally beneficial practice she has been pushing for through legislation.

“Oysters help clean our water, which provides numerous benefits to our state, both from an environmental and a commercial perspective,” said Wagner. “The naval base in Leonardo is the perfect location to protect these oyster beds from poachers. Ultimately, the research produced from this project will provide innumerable benefits.”

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had halted the test cultivation of oysters last year over concerns that poachers might harvest them and try to slip them into the food market even though they are not fit for consumption. However, the U.S. Navy has just agreed to allow the oysters to be grown by the NY/NJ Baykeeper organization in secure waters off of Sandy Hook that it patrols 24/7.

Wagner’s legislation (A-3104) would have required the DEP to allow, for research, educational purposes or ecological restoration, the cultivation, commonly known as “gardening,” of commercial shellfish species in certain coastal and inner harbor waters.

Wagner noted that oyster reefs can support the growth and recovery of an ecosystem by filtering pollution out of contaminated waters. The primary growers of shellfish in tainted or seasonally approved waters are typically environmental organizations, with the assistance of school groups, which are involved in legitimate scientific and educational efforts, including getting students involved as stewards of local waters.

In those endeavors, a variety of commercial shellfish, including oysters, hard clams and blue mussels, are grown for study purposes, which are not fit for human consumption, thus becoming a concern if poachers were to illegally harvest them.

“This agreement is an excellent way to achieve the goals of our legislation without compromising the public’s health,” added Wagner. “I’m pleased that we are finally going to see the resumption of this important work.”