Recently a number of newspapers have run an Associated Press article titled, “New York’s new environmental ‘hero’ – the oyster.” The article describes how researchers are reseeding oysters in New York harbor Each oyster can filter about 50 gallons of water a day, removing toxins and suspended silt from the water. The oysters may play a big role in cleaning up America’s polluted urban maritime environment. The Oyster Restoration Research Partnership and others have begun seeding new oyster beds at Hastings On Hudson, Soundview Park, Governors Island, Bay Ridge Flats, the Bronx River, Gowanus Canal and Staten Island. High school student’s at New York’s Harbor School are cultivating oysters for academic credit.
The one place that you will not find new oyster cultivation in New York harbor is on the New Jersey side. The border between the two states runs right down the center of the Hudson River. While New Yorkers are working to reestablish the “environmental hero,” on their side of the harbor, oysters are criminals on the New Jersey side. Well, not the oysters themselves, but anyone doing oyster research. Under Governor Chris Christie, New Jersey banned oyster restoration in 2010 in waters classified as contaminated for shellfish, citing public health concerns. The research oyster beds that existed in New Jersey were shut down. From the NY/NJ Baykeeper web site:
Baykeeper’s two operating reef projects in New Jersey-one in the Navesink River in Red Bank and the second in Raritan Bay in Keyport-were shut down due to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) decision to ban research, restoration, and education projects using oysters in “contaminated” waters; waters classified as “Restricted” or “Prohibited” for shellfish harvest. This essentially deems the vast majority of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary off-limits for oyster restoration.
NJDEP claims that if the population of a “commercial viable species”, such as the oyster, is increased in waters that are unsafe for shellfish harvest that people will illegally harvest the oysters causing a human health risk. (Regardless of the fact that our oysters are too small to harvest.) Baykeeper feels that the possibility of poaching would be eliminated by NJDEP doing its job of patrolling closed waters with NJDEP Enforcement Officers. Additionally, Baykeeper has numerous institutional controls to secure the oysters. Oyster restoration—recognized as a very important coastal restoration technique—should not be restricted because of lack of enforcement.
So basically, New York is restoring oysters in New York harbor because the oysters will clean the water, while New Jersey has banned oyster research, restoration and education because the water in the harbor and associated estuary is dirty. What does New Jersey have against clean water, I wonder?