Stockton University’s New Mill Creek Oyster Restoration Reef

From left to right: Steve Evert (Stockton Marine Field Station Director), Colleen Heffernan (Stockton student), Isaac Cruz (Stockton student), Dr. Christine Thompson (Assistant Professor of Marine Science) & Kristin Adams (OCSCD Erosion Control Specialist) hold recycled shells with oyster larvae attached while Dale Parsons and staff from Parsons Mariculture deploy 1000 bushels of spat on shell in the background. Photo by Susan Allen.

OCSCD continues to further our efforts on the Sustainable Practices for Aquaculture Resource Conservation grant project (SPARC). This past month District Erosion Control Specialist Kristin Adams joined Dr. Christine Thompson and Steve Evert from the Stockton University Marine Field Station as they witnessed the very first shell planting of Stockton University’s second oyster reef restoration site, the Mill Creek Reef.

With funding from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and support from the Jetty Rock Foundation, Stockton University contracted with Parsons Mariculture to remotely set roughly 40 million oyster larvae on over 1000 bushels of recycled shell.

After the oyster larvae, also referred to as spat, was set on the recycled shell, the spat on shell was transferred from setting tanks at Parsons nursery to a barge and transported north from Tuckerton Creek to the new reef site. Once the site was reached, high pressure hoses were hooked up to pumps within the boats used to physically move all the spat-on-shell off the barge and into the bay, where it will settle to the bottom and create a reef. Aptly named the Mill Creek Reef, the 2-acre reef site sits near the mouth of the Mill Creek, between Beach Haven West and Ship Bottom; demarcated by white PVC stakes, the reef can be seen from the Barnegat Bay Bridge.

Mike Joannides Jr. and Steve Bongard of Parsons Mariculture use high-pressure hoses to transplant the spat-on-shell into the bay at the Mill Creek Oyster Restoration Reef. Photos by Kristin Adams.

In addition to the Tuckerton Reef site, which was established in 2016, the Mill Creek Reef site will also be monitored annually by Dr. Thompson, Stockton research faculty and students. Sampling includes water quality data, volume of the reef building materials and other organisms (oyster, clam and whelk shell, sponges, etc.), live oyster quantities and lengths, naturally set oysters and evidence of predation by oyster drills. This data helps to guide the future efforts of restoring health to the Barnegat Bay and Atlantic Intercoastal bays.  The District is grateful to have Stockton University, Parsons Mariculture, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Jetty Rock Foundation as partners and looks forward to working with them in the future.