Monday, September 24, 2012

BRWC Examines Health of Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook Bay

The Bayshore Regional Watershed Council (BRWC) is an all-volunteer environmental group. Since 2000, the council has been working to improve the physical environment in the Bayshore region of Middlesex and Monmouth counties, New Jersey. The BRWC is made up of citizens, scientists, environmental commissioners, and municipal officials from a variety of Bayshore communities, from Old Bridge Township eastward to the Borough of Highlands. The council's goal is the restoration and conservation of Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook Bay. This goal can only be accomplished, however, through active public participation by people in each Bayshore community.

Please consider becoming a member of the watershed council. BRWC meet the second Thursday of every month inside Keyport Borough Hall, located on Front Street. For more information, visit

Photo Credit: Joe Reynolds
On September 16, 2012, BRWC hosted a Free Seining Event of Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook Bay.  One way to discover how healthy a natural body of water might be is to conduct a biological test, like seining.  Two people pull a long net through the shallow part of the water to capture fish, crabs, and anything else that lives along the shallow edge of the bay, mostly small and juvenile animals. After recording and taking a close look at what was found, participants then release the animals back into the water.

Seining is like a taking a brief health check to see the abundance and diversity of who's swimming in the water. In general, the more variety of life in the water, the healthy it is.  Four bayside beaches were tested: Cliffwood Beach in Aberdeen Township, Conaskonck Point in Union Beach, near the mouth of Pews Creek in the Port Monmouth section of Middletown Township, and near the mouth of Many Mind Creek in Atlantic Highlands.

Photo Credit: Joe Reynolds
The goal was to see if water quality in Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook Bay, a gritty urban-suburban estuary downstream from New York City, was healthy during a late summer day. 

Among the catch was:
  • Herring, including bluebacks and shad
  • 4" Snapper Blues
  • Atlantic Silversides 
  • Striped Killifish by the handful
  • Northern Pipefish
  • Several species of drums
  • Lots of comb jellies, mole crabs, and mud snails
  • Skillet fish
  • Juvenile Blennies
There was also an assortment of crabs and shrimps:
  • Blue crabs
  • Lady crabs
  • Spider crabs
  • Mud crabs
  • Mole crabs
  • Snapping shrimp 
  • Shore shrimp

Pipefish found in Atlantic Highlands. Photo Credit: Joe Reynolds
In spite of the diversity, though, the turbidity was poor. The water was cloudy and turbid, so much so that in some places you could only see a few inches down. Perhaps this was due to recent rains that had washed in an abundance of sand, sediment, and other substances. There could have also been an abundance of algae floating in the water.  

To find out the full results of the seining survey, check out "Nature on the Edge of NYC:"  here.

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