Letters

Wrong Clam Decision

Jun 12, 2019

Surf City — To the Editor:

Although I am the president of ReClam the Bay, this is my personal view, not that of the organization.

For 15 years ReClam the Bay has been putting millions of clams and oysters in the bays. The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Shellfisheries has also been stocking the bay as part of its “Put and Take Program.” Working together we plant clams because it is an important part of the education process. More animals filtering the bay and more people enjoying the bay as a food source underscores the importance of water quality.

I have seen interest in the bay and the consumption of shellfish grow enormously. “Pick your own,” where, for a fee and, of course, a New Jersey clam license, people could learn how to clam and be guaranteed to go home with clams sounds great, right? It would expand the understanding of water quality even further and have economic and tourist benefits.

I was very pleased when a shellfish lease holder, 40 North, applied for and received permission to have a “pick you own” portion of its lease located behind High Bar Harbor. And then, I was shocked when someone in Trenton changed his or her mind. What? A decision is made, 40 North starts spending money for promotion and logistics planning and then … “No clams for you.”

There are health concerns about eating raw shellfish and New Jersey is seen as a leader in safe shellfish. I heard that someone in Trenton was worried that a person might go to the “pick you own clams” plot and harvest clams and not keep them cool. Theoretically, they could get sick. By the way, illness has never been reported to the Bureau of Shellfisheries as a result of the “put and take” program, to my knowledge. In fact, the “pick your own” operation would be much safer because ice would be made available, pickers would receive instruction, and the picking time would be limited.

Catch this: Licensed clammers can harvest in the morning, fish for the rest of the day, and then, 10 warm hours later, eat the clams they harvested that morning. Nowhere on the license does it say, “Chill your clams.” Do we need to tell fishermen, “Ice your fish”?

I’m told that the situation is “under review” in Trenton. Let’s just hope that the “powers that be” realize that the first decision, to permit “pick your own,” was the correct one. Let’s go “Jersey Fresh,” and eat more shellfish!

Rick Bushnell

Surf City

The writer is a Rutgers/Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Program certified shellfish gardener.

 

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