New Jersey Hunters banner

1 - 4 of 4 Posts

·
Moderator
Joined
·
11,226 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Delaware Bay still losing oysters
Fifth consecutive population decline prompts panel to propose closing some beds
Monday, March 21, 2005
BY ALEXANDER LANE
Star-Ledger Staff
The Delaware Bay's oyster population dropped for the fifth consecutive year in 2004, a streak that is baffling experts and threatening livelihoods on the bayshore.

With oyster abundance at one of its lowest levels since at least 1953, a state expert committee is scheduled to release a report today that recommends certain beds be closed to harvesting so the population can rebound.


"It's an alarming trend. It's unprecedented," said Eric Powell, a fisheries biologist at Rutgers' Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory near Port Norris. "We've got to respond now. We can't afford for this animal to drop out of the bay ecosystem."

Beyond the closures, Powell is expected to call for more "planting" of oyster-friendly surfaces in the short term and detailed, long-term studies of the bay.

Oysterman Steve Fleetwood, the owner of Bivalve Packing and a member of the New Jersey Shell Fisheries Council, agreed with Powell's suggestions, but was skeptical closures were necessary.

"We have been on a downhill trend," Fleetwood said. "But I certainly don't believe it's as bleak an outlook as what has been portrayed."

The distinctive region of the Delaware Bay shore, a collection of salty towns tucked well away from the Philadelphia-New York corridor, has depended on oystering for decades.

As recently as the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of bushels of oysters were harvested each year, each fetching $25 to $35 in today's dollars. More than 95 percent of that haul usually ends up on raw bars, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

A disease called Dermo, which can kill oysters but does not affect humans, decimated the population in the 1990s, and the state has carefully managed the fishery for the past decade. Due to the recent population decline, this year's recommended harvest of less than 35,000 bushels would be the lowest since the state started managing the fishery.

"It's going to have a big economic impact down here," said Powell, who advises the state on the oyster quota.

The recent problems do not appear to be a result of Dermo, Powell said. Oysters are spawning well, but the tiny, free-floating larvae are not setting -- that is, affixing themselves to a hard underwater surface where they can grow.

Experts do not understand why.

Powell said it could be changes in water temperature or water clarity, variations in the makeup of the tiny organisms that serve as the larvae's food, pollution levels or a host of other factors.

"There's no significant environmental monitoring program going on in the Delaware Bay that would give us the information we could use to try and determine why this is going on," Powell said. "We're completely in the dark."

Russell Babb, who oversees the DEP's Bivalve Shellfish Office, said the state planned a more aggressive planting program this year, in which old oyster shells or clam shells are laid on the bottom to provide a clean, smooth surface to which the larvae can attach. Babb said the state and federal governments had provided about $300,000 each for the program this year, and he said he and other oystering advocates were seeking funding for four or five more years of aggressive planting.

After that, Babb said, catch levels should reach a level where landing fees that oyster fishermen voluntarily pay could reach levels that will replenish the planting fund.

"We need a few years to prime the pump, so to speak," Babb said.

Oysters act as filters, siphoning out solids in the water and helping to keep it clear and clean, scientists say.

"If you have more oysters, you have better water quality, a better habitat for other animals in the bay, and you have more oysters going to the dock for the industry," Powell said. "There is absolutely no downside to more oysters. It wins ecologically and it wins economically."

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.) has been a vocal advocate for the industry on the federal level, and the Democratic administration of acting Gov. Richard Codey has been supportive as well. In these times of rising state and federal deficits, however, oystering advocates can count on ample competition for funding in the next few years.



Alexander Lane covers the environment. He can be reached at [email protected] or (973) 392-1790.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
612 Posts
Oysters act as filters, siphoning out solids in the water and helping to keep it clear and clean, scientists say.

"If you have more oysters, you have better water quality, a better habitat for other animals in the bay, and you have more oysters going to the dock for the industry," Powell said. "There is absolutely no downside to more oysters."
That's kind of a strange statement. Granted this is a different species, but when the zebra mussels started invading the great lakes, they totally changed the ecosystem... and all researches said it was for the worse. They made the once murky water too clear and the gamefish suffered as a result. Can anyone explain why an overabundance of oysters is a good thing and mussels would be a bad thing? Maybe just because one can be harvested for control and the other can't.[confused]
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,890 Posts
Can anyone explain why an overabundance of oysters is a good thing and mussels would be a bad thing? Maybe just because one can be harvested for control and the other can't
From what I read about zebra mussels, they made the environment sterile, whereas oysters just keep it regular . I guess maybe oysters actualy just regulate the water quality instead of sterilize it. Just a thought, I don't know for sure.
 
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
Top