VIDEO : Stockton Begins Grant Work On Experimental Oyster Reef

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GALLOWAY - Stockton University’s Marine Field Station began working on an experimental oyster reef in the Little Egg Harbor Bay in hopes of restoring the oyster population.
Due to pollution, disease, and over harvest, the oyster population in New Jersey has plummeted over the years.
“There are not enough wild oysters to start self-sustaining themselves, even if you put shells down," said Steve Evert, Project Leader at Stockton University.
On Wednesday, Stockton University tried to change that by creating an experimental oyster reef in the Little Egg Harbor Bay.
The project is funded by a $52,000 grant through the Barnegat Bay Partnership – that was later matched by the university and its partners in the project.
“They look for a suitable substrate and hopefully they find the substrate that you put in there,” said Evert.
From there, the larvae become young oysters known as "spats" on the welch shells.
As of Wednesday, 200,000 oyster spats were put on Stockton's newest research vessel.
“When we use welch shell, this will produce like a cluster of oysters. We hope some of which will survive and continue to reproduce in the bay and offer some biological benefits,” said Dale Parsons, Employee at Parsons Seafood.
“We’ll basically be putting down a half of acre of these and a half of acre of Mullica River transplants. Over the course of the next year, next summer we’ll monitor growth, survivorship or mortality, and ethological surfaces,” said Evert.
“There is evidence of natural recruitment, so nature has proven that the bay can sustain oysters. We’re just trying to help it along,” said Parsons.
Evert is hoping to have a better understanding of which of the two approaches will have the best chances of boosting the oyster population in the Little Egg Harbor bay for years to come.