Unsold Oysters go to New Jersey Restoration Reefs

By Kirk Moore.

For months COVID-19 restrictions have shut down restaurants in New Jersey and stalled the promising rebirth of the state’s oyster industry.

That left a lot of now-oversized oysters in Delaware and Barnegat bays. A new project led by Rutgers University and New Jersey Sea Grant is buying 76,000 oysters from growers for transplant on Delaware beds and Atlantic coast oyster restoration sites in Little Egg Harbor and the Mullica River.

Moving those older oysters should increase the biomass and oyster larvae in the water – and could serve as a demonstration of how to bring more commercial oyster growers into ecosystem restoration programs.

“These older oysters are at an ideal reproductive age. It seemed like an ideal opportunity,” said Lisa Calvo, a marine scientist and aquaculture program coordinator at Rutgers University – New Brunswick’s Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory and New Jersey Sea Grant.

The idea has been kicking around the aquaculture and coastal science community for some time, says Calvo, who hopes the transplanting “will serve as a model for future efforts and establish a shellfish exchange that will serve as a broker linking shellfish farmers and restoration practitioners.”

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