Scutari To DEP: Enforcement Key To Sustaining Oyster Project

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Sen. Nicholas Scutari

TRENTON – Senator Nicholas P. Scutari expressed concern over a recent state Department of Environmental Protection decision that would shut down a project to reduce pollution in Raritan Bay.

Scutari (D-Union) sent a letter to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin expressing concern over a recent notice to terminate the NY/NJ Baykeeper oyster project, pointing out the benefits of the project for the Raritan Bay.

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The DEP sent a directive to the Baykeeper on July 15 instructing it to remove its experimental oyster reef from the Hudson-Raritan Estuary out of concern that the shellfish could be illegally poached. The DEP contends that sickness caused by illegally poached oysters making their way into the market could damage the state’s shellfish industry.

In his letter to the commissioner, Scutari stressed the importance of the oysters, which provide a cleansing mechanism in the polluted Raritan Bay through a natural filtering process in which they take large amounts of water through their bodies and retain pollutants. The process helps to reduce pollution and to rebuild the ecosystem in the waters.

The senator also emphasized that a number of factors significantly decrease the likelihood that poaching will occur, most notably that the oysters are a fraction of the size of commercially produced oysters, making them unattractive to the market.

Further, the DEP already is required to increase patrols of shell fisheries to comply with US Food and Drug Administration rules, a move which would also guard against potential poaching, Scutari said.

“I submit that the answer to the perceived problem of Baykeeper oysters finding their way into the food supply and thereby harming consumers and the shellfish industry is effective and proper enforcement,” the senator wrote, “rather than dismantlement of a project designed to benefit the environment and ecosystems of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary and surrounding waters.”


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