For most of us food enthusiasts, when you hear the word ‘shellfish’, you think ‘yes, please…with some tabasco and lemon, por favor!’ But – maybe we should also, and more importantly, think ‘effective natural filtration system.’
Since 2005, the non-profit organization ReClam the Bay has been working on educating the public about the vital role shellfish can play in cleaning up Barnegat Bay and maintaining balance in the estuary. And while making the public aware and offering general informative classes are regular parts of their mission, they are doing the hands-on work in the planting and growing of the shellfish in the Barnegat Bay. According to their annual report, ReClam the Bay have helped to grow 8.5 million clams since 2005.
What can shellfish do? Well, they are known to be effective in helping to removal of nitrogen due to the fact that they are bottom feeders. High levels of nitrogen, which can come from lawn fertilizer runoff, leads to algae growth that adversely harm the bay’s ecosystem. By reclaming the bay, the levels of nitrogen in Barnegat Bay can be brought down to healthier levels. But they cannot do it alone; it is also up to those of us who live near the bay to change some of our habits – like the kind of fertilizer we use on our lawns.
For those who really want to get involved, ReClam the Bay (along with the Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Project) are offering a course in becoming a certified shellfish gardener. This program would allow to become directly involved with the planting, growing, caring of the clams and oysters that are placed in the bay. Classes will be held on Tuesday at 7PM at the Rutgers Extension office on Whitesville Road in Toms River, and the cost for the course is $75. The first class is – gadzooks – tomorrow! So, if you are interested, call 732.349.1152 to find out about signing up.
If shellfish gardening is a little too involved for you, but you want to get a closer look at what’s going on regarding the reclaming project, ReClam the Bay offers a free program during the summer on Long Beach Island. The program is called The Secret Lives of Clams & Oysters, and they are held on Thursdays at 10AM starting June 23. And this not a ‘sit in the classroom’ program; you will be getting your hands a little wet and sandy, and you will be out on the bay. But if you enjoy the beauty of the Barnegat Bay, I’m sure you won’t mind it one bit.