Representatives from New Jersey’s oyster industry announced their plans yesterday to invest $50,000 in the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Project on behalf of the Delaware Bay Section of the Shell Fisheries Council and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

This money will come from a DEP-administered account that the industry pays into for the purpose of maintaining oyster reefs, and it matches a pledge by the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary in September.  Now the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Task Force needs just $100,000 to reach its minimum goal for 2011.

“The oystermen of Delaware Bay, together with the DEP, have prepared for this day by imposing a tax on every bushel that is harvested,” said Scott Bailey, chairman of the Delaware Bay Section of the Shell Fisheries Council.  “While this is only enough to enhance a handful of reefs, we hope that others can assist by contributing to New Jersey’s oyster-reef enhancement program.  This project is great, both for the environment and the local economies of the bayshore.”

The task force needs a total of $200,000 to continue replenishing oyster reefs before the summer spawning season.  This replenishment is necessary because of two parasites that hit the bay during the 1950s, and then again in the 1990s.  These parasites are known as MSX and Dermo, and while they are not harmful to humans, they are fatal to oysters; so fatal that Delaware Bay has yet to fully recover after all these years.

Without funding, countless baby oysters, or “larvae,” many have no suitable place to grow up.  If this happens, fewer oysters will be available to filter the bay’s water, provide habitat for marine life, and reach a marketable size for the seafood industries of Delaware and New Jersey.

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