Shellfish Survey

Coastal Research Center

Shellfish Habitat Suitability Survey

The Hard Clam (Mercenaria mercenaria), and the American Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) are shellfish of ecological, biological, and commercial significance in our region. These bivalve mollusks are filter feeders which play an important role in ecosystem homeostasis by naturally cleaning the water of toxins and water-borne pathogens. Both species are a food source for many marine animals (birds, fish, and crabs); as well a multi-million dollar aquaculture industry in the State of New Jersey.     

Hard Clams                                                                                                American Oysters

When marine development is proposed (such as a marina or breakwater) the area’s suitability as shellfish habitat must be determined in accordance with the N.J.A.C. 7:7E Coastal Zone Management Rules. It is often necessary to conduct a shellfish survey to determine the area’s ability to support shellfish populations prior to the development of an area. The survey is conducted by analyzing the proposed project’s area of expansion and evenly dividing the entire area of study into uniform sub-sections. The area then will be examined for adult and juvenile shellfish, particularly hard clams and oysters, with special attention paid to variables such as sediment type, additional bivalve mollusks, as well as species and viability of aquatic vegetation. 

Once all data has been collected a report is prepared and submitted to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as part of the proposal’s permit application. The Bureau of Shellfisheries reviews the report and makes a determination that the existing habitat is not suited for shellfish habitat and allows development of the area or that the area is essential shellfish habitat and imposes restrictions on the proposed development.   

Sampling Area of Proposed Development Site