Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘American Littoral Society’

Ghost Fishing

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

How CWF Is Fighting This Threat to Wildlife in Barnegat Bay

by Emily Heiser, Wildlife Biologist

 

For many coastal communities in New Jersey, like the Barnegat Bay region, winter is a time for rejuvenation and the preparation of our resources for a busy summer season.  It only makes sense that we also start to prepare the coast’s most precious resource – the bay.  

 

Barnegat Bay is approximately 42 miles of brackish marsh and bay bordering Ocean County.  The bay and surrounding marshlands are rich in vital resources that directly and indirectly support over 60,000 jobs and have an economic value of $2 to $4 billion dollars annually (Barnegat Bay Partnership Economic Report 2012).   

 

Pots are often heavily encrusted with organisms and can contain several different species of bycatch. @ John Wenk

Part of that economic value is attributed to the tremendous blue claw crab fishery in the bay.  The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife estimates that commercial and recreational crabbers harvest around 6 million crabs per year from New Jersey waters.  Barnegat Bay, along with Little Egg Harbor and the Maurice River estuary comprise approximately 65-86% of the recreational harvest that occurs annually.  Recreational crabbers use a variety of methods, but typically rely on baited pots or hand lines for crabbing.  Regulations exist for the use of pots, but their unintentional loss has created an economic and environmental problem for all portions of Barnegat Bay.

 

CWF, along with our partners, has been diligently organizing and executing what is essentially a cleanup of these pots within Barnegat Bay.  In 2015 and 2017, CWF was granted a NOAA Marine Debris Removal Program grant to support the removal of derelict crab pots, also know as ghost pots, from Barnegat Bay.  Over the course of the last three years, we have removed over 1,300 crab pots that have become a death trap for a variety of marine organisms, including diamondback terrapins and otherwise fishable blue crabs.  

 

Students from the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science assist in assessing pots after they’ve been pulled from the bay. @John Wenk

All of the fieldwork on this project occurs during the chilling winter months when only the hardiest of fishermen can be found on the water.   The blue crab season is open in most parts of the state from March 15th – November 30th leaving the coldest months to head out and collect pots that are not supposed to be actively fishing.  Several partners have made this project a possibility – the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, Stockton University, Monmouth University, ReClam the Bay, American Littoral Society, and through contracts with local fishermen.  

 

Using side-scan sonar units, crews head out in early December to start looking for ghost pots.  Once a sufficient number of pots have been marked, waypoints are transferred over to retrieval crews.  Retrieving the pots sounds easy in theory, but can be time-consuming and success is dependent on many compounding factors such as substrate, weather, and tidal conditions.  Upon relocation of a surveyed pot, the captain must line the boat up to the best of their ability and with as much accuracy as they can, instructs the crew where to throw the grapple line.  Often you hear them call out, “Five feet – left center” and amazingly, the crew throws the grapple and hooks into a pot!  Depending on the substrate and how long the pot has been on the bay floor, it can be very difficult and dangerous to leverage out.  With the use of just the right amount of engine power, sunken pots can be delicately coaxed out of the water and lifted onto the boat by crews.  Once a pot is on the boat, a rapid assessment is done to look for unintended bycatch, pot design, and encrusting organisms.  Some of the various bycatch that has been found in pots include several species of crabs, lobster, flounder, tautog, and sadly, several diamondback terrapins.  One pot contained the remains of more than 17 diamondback terrapins.  

 

Ghost pots are disposed of by NFWF and Covanta’s Fishing for Energy Program where they will be recycled and turned into energy. @John Wenk

After a day of retrievals, the crew heads back to the marina where pots are placed in a disposal bin.  The bins are provided to the project through the successful Fishing for Energy Program run by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta Energy, and Schnitzer Steel.  Gear collected from our port is stripped for recyclable materials at Schnitzer Steel and then non-recyclable material is turned into energy at Covanta’s facility in Rahway, New Jersey.  The holistic nature of this project breathes life into the term, “reduce, reuse, recycle”.

 

Barnegat Bay’s ghost pots exemplify an overarching issue of our environment, human-wildlife conflicts.  The Bay’s vital resources drive the economy and addressing these issues make us better stewards of the Bay and its resources.

Reef dedication, seining to help celebrate Veterans Day on Delaware Bay

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Oyster reef to be dedicated to New Jersey Veterans at second annual event

By Emily Hofmann, Project Coordinator

a-seine-net-about-75-feet-long-is-dredged-in-the-bay-and-brought-up-on-the-beach-to-collect-the-species-for-study

A seine net about 75 feet long is dredged in the bay and brought up on the beach to collect the species for study. Photo courtesy of Middle Township Gazette.

You and your family are “whelk-come” to join American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation and for our 2nd Annual Veterans Day on the Bay on Saturday, November 12 from 11:00 AM -2:00 PM at Moores Beach on the Delaware Bayshore! In April, we held our 2nd Annual Shell-A-Bration where proud volunteers braved the elements and helped build an oyster reef at Moores Beach.

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The 1st Annual Veterans Day on the Bay was held on November 11, 2015 at South Reeds Beach. The oyster reef was dedicated to all veterans and highlighted veteran involvement in the effort to restore New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore. Event attendees honored their own military veterans by inscribing that special person’s name on a shell and placing that shell on “Veterans Reef.”

 

This year we’d like to continue to show our appreciation and mark the progress we’ve made by dedicating another reef to a specific military branch.

 

Please join us for the 2nd Annual Veterans Day on the Bay, which will feature:

  • Raw oysters and fare from Spanky’s BBQ
  • Beach Clean-up
  • Seining and marine wildlife study
  • Arts and crafts for children
davidbensonshells1

Photo courtesy of David Benson.

Help us study the wildlife living in this new reef with hands-on, interactive marine science activities like seining and species identification!

 

The highlight of the event will be the dedication of Moores Beach oyster reef in honor of our military veterans. Attendees are invited to honor their own military veterans by inscribing that special person’s name on a shell and placing that shell on the reef.

 

This family fun day and volunteer event will be held from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM; with the reef dedication ceremony taking place at 12:30 PM. Veterans Day on the Bay is rain or shine. The celebration will be a picnic-style event, so please bring blankets and chairs.

 

Join us at Moores Beach, at the end of Moores Beach Road (which intersects with NJ Route 47 near Delmont United Methodist Church) Maurice River, New Jersey, 08314.

 

RSVP appreciated to Quinn Whitesall, quinn@littoralsociety.org or Emily Hofmann, emily.hofmann@conservewildlifenj.org by November 7.

 


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Emily Hofmann is a Project Coordinator with Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

 

Volunteers and biologists add the next oyster reef to Dyers Cove

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Team works through threat of downpour to strengthen Delaware Bay’s resiliency and ecology

By Emily Hofmann, Project Coordinator

 

Although the weather was on the brink of being rainy and bleak, that did not stop a team of dedicated biologists and volunteers from building an oyster reef on the Delaware Bayshore this past Saturday. Committed volunteers and young people braved the weather to work alongside American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation to build a near-shore oyster reef at Dyers Cove, at the end of Dyers Creek Road in Newport, Cumberland County, New Jersey.

 

oyster-reef-2

This reef – like the one at South Reeds Beach – was built to protect restoration work done after Hurricane Sandy and provide habitat. Constructed to prevent sand loss from wind-driven waves and create calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs, this is the third of five such reefs that have been built by the Littoral Society and CWF. The conservation organizations will continue to monitor whether the reef breakwaters help reduce beach erosion and create calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs.

 

Due to the heavy rain over the course of the week, the conditions were not ideal. Low-tide never went below waist deep, so it was hard to construct the reef accordingly. But that did not stop the team!oyster-reef-build_5

 

“Every oyster reef we’ve built so far on the Delaware Bay incorporated a different restoration strategy. We have had to adapt new strategies with what has worked best in the past and with what will realistically work based on site conditions. By blending the successes from the previous reefs with innovative approaches, we have been able to construct three reefs to date,” said Capt. Al Modjeski, Habitat Restoration Program Director for the American Littoral Society.

 

The bayshore beaches need restoration and improved resiliency so that horseshoe crabs have proper breeding grounds. Crab eggs feed migratory shorebirds, like the Red Knot, which stops in New Jersey each spring on its long journey from South America to the Arctic Circle. The Red Knot and other shorebirds help bring $11 million in tourist dollars to New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore region each year.

 

“New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore hosts an annual wildlife spectacle of global significance – the time-honored migration of Red Knots to reach the eggs of these ancient horseshoe crabs,” said David Wheeler, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Executive Director. “Volunteer projects like this help connect the people of New Jersey with these endangered shorebirds and the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world.”

 

“Originally, this event was a bare-bones volunteer effort of placing shell bags off the Dyers Cove eastern beach,” said Capt. Al. “But thanks to a donation from Betancourt, Van Hemmen, Greco & Kenyon, we will have a ‘shell-a-bration’ that celebrates the ecology and community of the Delaware Bayshore.”

oyster-reef

In 2015, over 130 volunteers and veterans built an oyster reef at South Reeds Beach in the first annual Shell-a-Bration. That same year, Veterans Day on the Bay dedicated the reef to all veterans and highlighted veteran involvement in the effort to restore New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore. The second annual Shell-a-Bration, held in April 2016, saw a handful of dedicated volunteers brave a blizzard to build a reef at Moore’s Beach. The third annual Shell-Bration will be held this coming Spring 2017.

 

“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 the 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.”

oyster-reef-4

The projects are being funded by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) through their Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Grants Program, and are being developed in partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.

 

Emily Hofmann is a project coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation


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New Jersey’s Hidden Coast – The Final Episode

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

NEW JERSEY’S HIDDEN COAST – EPISODE 6

by Emily Hofmann, Assistant Communications Manager

 

“Our work on the bayshore is not just about wildlife, it’s about people, and how keeping nature strong keeps us all strong in the face of disasters like hurricanes.”

 

We want to ensure that New Jersey’s Hidden Coast remains a vital part of our livelihood for generations to come.

 

This is the final episode to our video series, “New Jersey’s Hidden Coast.” Catch a glimpse of the Bay, the horseshoe crab at the center of the bay’s system, and the incredible relationship between horseshoe crabs and migratory birds, like the red knot. We reveal the real value of horseshoe crabs, the challenges to the ecosystem, and the potential for thriving regional economy along the bayshore. We will show Hurricane Sandy as a catalyst for decisive action and the work being done to rebuild the area for both people and wildlife.

 

Catch up on the previous episodes, here on our blog or on YouTube. Explore the use of “living shorelines” instead of bulkheads and the importance of marshes to the marine ecosystem. Discover the on-the-ground, grassroots efforts of the community to build oyster reeds alongside veterans. And examine the future of the Bay and the work that needs to be done to preserve our conservation successes year after year.

 

Discover Delaware Bay:

 

New Jersey’s Hidden Coast – Strengthening Bayshore Beaches

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

NEW JERSEY’S HIDDEN COAST – EPISODE 5

By Emily Hofmann, Assistant Communications Manager

 

Like all ecosystems, Delaware Bay is amazingly complex, and there’s no one way to fix it. Between climate change, sea level rise, and the growing risk of major storms, there’s a lot to consider.

 

We’ve learned that restoring healthy marsh habitat is a key component in rebuilding Delaware Bay beaches; however, we’re also trying to further strengthen bayshore beaches by building reefs – living underwater infrastructure. By creating some reef structures we can keep the sand where we’re putting it.

 

Learn more about strengthening New Jersey’s Hidden Coast – the Delaware Bayshore in our fifth episode to our series.

 

A new episode of our video series “New Jersey’s Hidden Coast” will air every two weeks throughout the summer! Catch a glimpse of the bay, the horseshoe crab at the center of the bay’s system, and the incredible relationship between horseshoe crabs and migratory birds, like the red knot. We will reveal the real value of horseshoe crabs, the challenges to the ecosystem, and the potential for a thriving regional economy along the Bayshore. We will show Hurricane Sandy as a catalyst for decisive action and the work being done to rebuild the area for both people and wildlife.

 

Over the next several weeks, we will explore the use of “living shorelines” instead of bulkheads and the central importance of marshes to the marine ecosystem. We will discover the on-the-ground, grassroots efforts of the community to build oyster reefs alongside veterans. And we will examine the future of the Bay and the work that needs to be done to preserve our conservation successes thus far.

 

Discover Delaware Bay:

 

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