The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is working with local, county and state police and will be conducing sweeps all summer, ensuring boaters on the Barnegat Bay are following proper boating procedures. On the first day of the sweeps, Saturday, 28 stops had been made by 1 p.m.
The sweeps are in effect to educate boat operators and to help preserve the Barnegat Bay from more damage caused by improper use.
The plan, called “Action Item 10,” is part of a list Governor Christie has implemented to start preserving the ecosystem in the Barnegat Bay. Action item 10 calls for boaters to reduce watercraft impacts. According to Terry Caruso, a member of the DEP’s national historic resources section, boaters need to be aware of their surroundings.
“We want to educate boaters about the 16 ecologically sensitive areas along the bay. Some of these areas contain eelgrass beds, which are important for reproduction of finfish, shellfish and invertebrates,” Caruso said. “These are also feeding areas for birds, places for small fish to hide from predators and grow bigger. We are also protecting shellfish beds, as well as natural shore lines.”
Caruso also said that sensitive shores have limits in place as to how close boaters can get to the shoreline.
“If people can stay away from nesting Osprey, so they don’t scare the mother off the nest. We are trying to make people understand the importance of keeping away from wildlife and respecting them,” she said.
Boaters are urged to read material about the bay before setting off on a day trip. Police are now starting to enforce these guidelines, and ignorance of them will not be an excuse. According to the Director for New Jersey State Park Police Rick Arroyo, educational material is available at rentals, marinas and is available online.
“This is a unified command with state, county and local authorities that all goes into one central dispatch, out of Trenton. All stops are being recorded and can be accessed same as motor vehicle, so on our next sweep if someone is stopped for the same violation we can take appropriate action,” Arroyo said. “Every time a boat is stopped, it’s going to be looked at to see if it has been stopped prior.”
Arroyo said that the three things police are looking out for are: reckless/careless boating, speeding through “no wake zones” and making sure boaters are 100 ft off natural shorelines.
As of 1 p.m., authorities had made 28 stops along the bay to educate boaters. No summons had been issued.
Included in the educational information given out to boaters are tips for keeping the Barnegat Bay clean:
- Stay out of restricted areas set aside for wildlife. Do not harass nesting birds or other animals.
- Buoy mooring chains and lines to prevent them from scraping on the Bay bottom and harming submerged aquatic vegetation and animals.
- Use pump-out boats and facilities. Do not discharge wastewater-holding tanks into open water.
- Maintain 100’ distance (about six car lengths) from natural shorelines, Bay islands and sensitive ecological areas and use marked navigational channels for travel.
- Minimize wakes in all shallow areas to help reduce erosion and harm to aquatic plants and animals.
- Appreciate wildlife from a distance.
- Help reduce air pollution by cutting the engine and not idling in open water.
- Keep trash, recyclables, hooks and lures in secure containers and dispose of them properly on land. Recycle used monofilament-fishing lines instead of throwing them away.
- Avoid giving invasive aquatic plants and animals a ride. Thoroughly clean boats, personal watercraft and equipment when transferring them from one body of water to another.
- Keep the engine leak-free and well tuned in order to minimize the discharge of fuel and oil into the water. Use a pillow or oil absorbent pad in the bilge to absorb any spilled oil.
“We want everyone to enjoy themselves out here,” Arroyo said. “But we want them to respect the bay because it’s being restored.”
For those interested, the next "Barnegat Bay Blitz" to help clean the bay will be held on October 18, 2012.
For more information about the Barnegat Bay please visit www.barnegatbay.nj.gov.
For information about the 16 Ecologically Sensitive Areas along the Barnegat Bay, please visit www.nj.gov/dep/barnegatbay/docs/BoaterESA.pdf