With 1 million new baby clams and 300,000 oysters in its nurseries, the Barnegat Bay shellfish restoration group ReClam the Bay is inviting the public to come for a look all summer long into October, on days when its volunteers are cleaning and looking after the growing shellfish.
Visitors can peek into tanks and see clams and oysters as they live in the bay — pumping water through their bodies to extract food — and can pick them up and feel them move as they tighten their shells, volunteers say. ReClam's main mission is to educate people about the bay, and volunteers welcome families and visitors of all ages.
Up through the late 20th century, Barnegat Bay had a bounty of clams that enabled self-employed baymen to work full time harvesting shellfish on the water. That began to change in the 1990s, as the numbers of clams in the bay and their natural reproduction rates fell. Baymen turned to aquaculture — planting seed clams from nurseries and nurturing them like farmers, on underwater plots leased from the state.
ReClam volunteers use the knowledge acquired by baymen to raise shellfish — in hopes of eventually increasing the stock of wild clams in the bay, but primarily as an educational project so people can learn how the bay works, and the possibilities for rebuilding its ecosystem by controlling stormwater pollution from land and restoring the clam population in key locations.
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