Over 130 volunteers worked alongside members of two conservation groups Saturday to build a near-shore oyster reef in the Delaware Bay.
Sponsored by the American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, the “Shell-a-Bration” event drew volunteers and veterans in an effort to build a near-shore whelk shell bar at South Reeds Beach in Cape May Court House, according to a joint release from the conservation groups.
The crews constructed the approximately 200-foot oyster reef offshore to study whether the reef bars help reduce beach erosion and create calmer conditions for spawning horseshoe crabs.
The 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.
Tim Dillingham, American Littoral Society Executive Director, said that there are a multitude of benefits of improving the area’s natural habitats.
“We are rebuilding the habitats of Delaware Bay to strengthen its ecology, its communities and its economy. This reef approach will be a key technique which we will try to expand around the Bayshore,” he said.
The oyster reef project is one of many projects that both conservation groups are undertaking, propelled by funding by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
“The Delaware Bayshore is a perfect location to demonstrate how communities benefit from their connection to a healthy natural resource base – for fishing, boating, wildlife watching and tourism,” said David O’Neill, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Vice President of Conservation Programs.
“The economies of Bayshore towns have historically been intertwined with the bay. And with the NFWF Hurricane Sandy grant, American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey are already restoring shorelines to make Bayshore natural resources and communities more resilient for the future,” he said.