Senator GERALD CARDINALE
District 39 (Bergen)
Senator PAUL A. SARLO
District 36 (Bergen, Essex and Passaic)
Senators Scutari and S.Kean
Allows cultivation of commercial shellfish species in certain coastal and inner harbor waters for research and educational purposes.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning shellfish and supplementing Title 50 of the Revised Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Notwithstanding any law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, the Department of Environmental Protection shall allow, for research or educational purposes or for ecological restoration, the cultivation of commercial shellfish species in coastal and inner harbor waters classified as contaminated.
2. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to allow, for research or educational purposes or for ecological restoration, the cultivation, commonly known as “gardening,” of commercial shellfish species in certain coastal and inner harbor waters.
Oyster restoration is an important activity because 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 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. These shellfish are not fit for human consumption, with oysters measuring much smaller than market size, growing to about two inches compared to five-inch market sized oysters.
On June 7, 2010, the DEP banned research-related gardening of commercial shellfish species in coastal and inner harbor waters classified as contaminated, which would interrupt more than 10 years of environmentally sound research activity and the educational opportunities provided by these oyster reefs. The DEP news release states that the purpose of this ban is to minimize the negative impacts, and health hazards, if these shellfish are illegally harvested or poached and sold for consumption. This concern can be mitigated through adequate patrolling and enforcement to prevent the illegal harvesting of the oyster beds. Furthermore, the impact of the DEP decision may result in a possible loss of federal funds, in addition to the loss of economic activity in the State and the environmental and educational benefits of these oyster reefs.