The third annual “Shell-a-Bration” oyster reef building volunteer event earlier this month brought together two conservation organizations that have been leading efforts to restore the ecology and economy of New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore communities, an environmental organization announced.
The volunteers worked alongside the American Littoral Society and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey to build a near-shore oyster reef at Dyers Cove, at the end of Dyers Creek Road in Newport, Cumberland County, New Jersey.
The organizers say the goal is to prevent beach erosion from wind-driven waves.
The near-shore project will also test whether the shell bar creates calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs.
Horseshoe crab eggs are vital to shorebirds, such as the federally listed Red Knot, when they visit the Delaware Bay during the annual migration, according to David Wheeler, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Executive Director.
“There are many strategies to defend our Delaware Bayshore, but one of the best and most productive are these oyster reefs,” stated Dr. Larry Niles, a biologist with American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. “They not only replicate a lost but important habitat on Delaware Bay — reefs once covered much of the Bayshore — but they provide just enough protection to make a difference in how long our beaches persist against the unrelenting forces of nature. In a way, we are fighting nature with nature.”
Volunteers built a similar reef at South Reeds Beach in Cape May Court House last year.