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Protecting Shooting Island Through the Enhancement of Shellfish Habitat

Project Purpose: 


The primary objective of the proposed project is to facilitate the creation of aquatic habitat to enhance the restoration and protection of wetlands. The ribbed mussels will be used on and along Shooting Island, a 150-acre tidal wetland located in the back bay of Ocean City, New Jersey.  


The project will enhance water quality through natural filtration process of the mussel, as well as help stabilize the planned regeneration of critical wetland habitat at Shooting Island.  A large component of this project includes educational outreach and opportunities for students and community volunteers to learn about the marine shellfish benefits, life-cycles, and the importance of protecting marine habitats. This component will include the establishment of an upweller to provide a ‘hands-on’ learning experience.


Brief Description:  


Ribbed mussels were selected for this proposed reef restoration due to their niche in maintaining ecosystem health in estuarine benthic environments. The ribbed mussel’s natural filtering abilities provides multifaceted benefits for improving water quality through removal of sediment, nitrogen, nutrients, algae and bacteria.  Ribbed mussels provide shoreline stability which reduces erosion, flooding, and damage from coastal storms.


The City of Ocean City has recently completed the first phase of wetland restoration at Shooting Island, via a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).  The first phase included the initial construction of a living shoreline (rock sills) along the island’s northern shoreline.  The subsequent phases of restoration will include the thin-layer placement of dredged material aimed at restoring the island’s ecosystem, and ultimately providing enhanced storm and flood resiliency to the City’s bayside shoreline.  The first phase also included the placement of man-made oyster castles along the western shoreline, which provides great opportunity/location for this project to evaluate the most beneficial environment and techniques for establishing ribbed mussel beds.  The ultimate goal will be to integrate ribbed mussels with the regeneration of Shooting Islands Living Shoreline.


This proposed project includes the installation and operation of a shellfish upweller, a tank in which to grow shellfish in a protected and controlled environment.  Ribbed mussels grown in the upweller will be placed at the previously established ‘oyster castles’ and along the western edge of Shooting Island near the rock sill.    


Among the many stated benefits, this proposed project is designed with an added educational element to integrate into the local school district’s curriculum through field trips and at Ocean City High School’s marine biology and oceanography classes. The project also encourages community/volunteer participation and education.  In particular, the project will teach responsibility in choices on land that affect marine habitats. 


Resource Values/Project Outputs: 


This project will provide aquatic habitat and improved water quality to the back bay waters of Ocean City.  The ribbed mussels will also supplement the wetland restoration efforts at Shooting Island, which will enhance the wetland ecosystem and further add resiliency, via storm and flood protection, to the City’s bay side residents and assets.  This project will also provide educational opportunities to allow students and volunteers to learn about the benefits of ribbed mussels and how their choices and actions can protect marine habitats in the bay.  


Successful completion of this project can serve as a model for future coastal resiliency projects. 


Cost/Budget: $150,000

  • Equipment $44,000

  • Labor $106,000


Funding Sources:

  • ACT Engineers, Inc.:  boat usage, gasoline, labor $85,000

  • ReClam the Bay: labor $27,000

  • CWRP Contribution: $25,000

  • OCNJ: electricity, labor $8,000

  • OCHS: labor $5,000


Schedule: Initiation of project in January 2020 with project completion in October 2022. 


Permit Status: No permits are needed for this project. 


List of Partners: 


What is requested from the CWRP/Contribution: $25,000 to be used for purchase of equipment, ribbed mussel seed/larvae, and education.


Point of Contact: Frank Donato 609-525-9350

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