Project PORTS is a community-based oyster restoration and educational program focusing on restoring a 10-acre conservation reef in Delaware Bay. The restoration methods focus on accelerating oyster recruitment by growing and planting high-set spat-on-shell. The restoration site is located in the upper bay, which has very low spat set: 50 to 200 spat per bushel. By placing our shell bags in the lower bay where there is high spat set, we capture 6,000 to 12,000 spat per bushel that would otherwise be lost from the bay. We have five years of success to support our methods and, today, large, sexually mature oysters are growing where oysters have not grown in decades, if not longer..
In 2011, NJDEP dive sampling identified areas of the previously enhanced 2-acre subplot to have little-to-no shell (substrate or spat-on-shell). In 2012, we propose to infill these areas (approximately 1 acre) via the placement of 4,000 bushels of shell substrate and, with the help of volunteers, subsequently field grow and plant approximately 1,500 bags of spatted shell. (The shell bags will be created by students as part of the PORTS educational component. We will monitor both this area as well as previously enhanced areas for oyster metrics (survivorship, growth, etc.) as well reef habitat function.
Project PORTS is consistent with the goals and objectives of 1) the Water Resources Plan for the Delaware River Basin, 2) Action H5.8 of the CCMP for the Delaware Estuary, and 3) the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Task Force. It is one of only 6 Priority Projects of the Alliance for Comprehensive Ecosystem Solutions of the Partnership for the Delaware.
List of Partners: NOAA Restoration Center, Rutgers Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, Rutgers Cousteau Center at Bridgeton, NJDEP Bureau of Shellfisheries, The Nature Conservancy