After Sandy, shellfish gradually recovering
By Kirk Moore, Asbury Park Press
NEPTUNE, N.J. (AP) -- Lightly crusted with barnacles, Matt Gregg's oyster floats are barely visible as they bob in the waters of northern Barnegat Bay. Gregg snagged one, hauled it into his boat and shook out his livestock: thumb-size oysters, his life's work these last three years.
Right up until Sandy hit.
"I had probably 300,000 out here, and I'd guess I'm down to less than 50,000 now," Gregg said.
Five months after Superstorm Sandy ripped across New Jersey's coastal bays, the Shore's shellfish industry is still struggling to recover. "We were closed five months," said Michael McCarthy, who with his father, Peter, raises clams near Beach Haven.
Every week since November, McCarthy and other baymen have been helping the state Department of Environmental Protection collect sample clams for testing, to determine when shellfish will be safe to harvest again.
Shellfish beds were closed as Sandy bore down Oct. 29, a routine precaution in major storms because clams and oysters can be affected by pollution that washes in with heavy rain and flood tides.
Now it is a matter of waiting for the water to warm up and the clams to wake up and start pumping water through their bodies to purge bacteria, DEP officials say.
Tissue samples are subjected to coliphage tests, designed to detect any traces of bacteria and viruses to make sure shellfish are harvested within state and federal health standards.
"Usually they start at around 50 degrees. We're almost there," McCarthy said.n