With summer boating season underway, New Jersey officials want boaters to cautiously navigate the Barnegat Bay and reduce their impacts on its critical ecosystems.
A 42-mile long waterway separating Ocean County’s mainland from the barrier islands, the brackish Barnegat Bay is very narrow and shallow, making the bay “particularly sensitive” to human impact, officials say.
“Environmentally sensitive ecosystems within the bay, such as wetlands, shellfish and fish habitats, and aquatic vegetation, are at risk of impacts that come from boating and using personal watercraft,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a news release. “For that reason, it is vital that we work with the boating community to continue to protect Barnegat Bay’s fragile health while promoting the numerous tourism and recreational opportunities the bay provides to its visitors.”
According to the release, motor boat propellers and boat wake turbulence can disturb and harm submerged aquatic vegetation that provide fish and wildlife habitat.
Boaters can view an online map to locate the bay’s 16 designated ecologically sensitive zones here. The map also shows the locations of marinas, sewage pump-out facilities, bait and tackle shops, launches and ramps, restrooms, and places to dispose of trash
The DEP encourages boaters to follow these guidelines:
Stay away from restricted areas set aside for wildlife;
Do not harass nesting birds and other animals;
Maintain a 100-foot distance from natural shorelines;
Minimize wakes by slowing down in all shallow areas to help reduce erosion and harm to aquatic animals and plants;
Use buoys to moor chains and lines to prevent them from scraping the bay’s bottom and disturbing submerged aquatic vegetation;
Appreciate wildlife from a distance;
Reduce air pollution by not idling boats or personal watercraft in open water.