Martin Sedlacko, of Forked River, New Jersey volunteers with ReClam the Bay, an environmental organization with an educational focus that grows up seed clams and oysters until they are large enough to be transferred to protected reefs in Barnegat Bay.
The native oyster and clam populations died off substantially in the 1950s and ‘60s due to land development in the shore community and environs, Sedlacko explains. One significant factor is eutrophication; nitrogen (found in fertilizers, acid rain) from runoff contributes to excessive underwater plant growth. In the subsequent dieback and decomposition process, bacteria consumes the oxygen the shellfish depend on.
On Monday afternoons, volunteers gather at a shellfish station on Barnegat Bay off of 24th street in Seaside Heights, not far from the extensive Island Beach State Park on the south side of Long Beach Island. They clean the growing shellfish and introduce bay water into several tanks called “upwellers.” The juveniles feed on plankton in the water.
The Seaside Heights station is one of ten such locations on the bay that participate in the Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Program, a partnership between Rutgers University/Ocean County Cooperative Extension and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Employees from Subaru of Cherry Hill complemented the regular volunteer contingent at the Seaside Heights station on a recent Monday afternoon. In the morning the employees had participated in a bay cleanup. According to one employee, Subaru partners with the Ocean Conservancy because this kind of volunteering is a good fit with its brand and the values held by its customers.
For more information about Barnegat Bay and restoration efforts visit