A swath of Barnegat Bay was reopened to shellfishing Tuesday, three months after they were closed as Superstorm Sandy struck the area.
The state Department of Environmental Protection announced that shellfish beds had been reopened to commercial clamming from the area south of the Route 37 bridge to Oyster Creek.
The DEP performed tissue sampling of shellfish from that area of the bay and determined that the shellfish now meet standards set by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, a state and federal cooperative effort that monitors and ensures the health and safety of shellfish.
"We are pleased to reopen these additional shellfish beds and get people back to work in areas that had been affected by the storm," DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a statement. "Tests also show that our ocean water quality continues to be excellent."
The reopening of the beds in the central bay means just one area of the estuary remains off-limits to shellfishers: the area of Barnegat Bay and Little Egg Harbor Bay stretching from Oyster Creek south to Little Egg Inlet.
Though historically, the central bay was a clamming hub, the bulk of today's commercial shellfishing occurs in Little Egg Harbor Bay, in the area of Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor Township.
The DEP is continuing to monitor water quality and shellfish tissue in that area and will reopen them when monitoring and sampling criteria are met, the agency's statement said.
Coordinates of Jan. 29 closure boundary: Mouth of the Oyster Creek (-74°10’13.06W 39°48’40.00N) to a point on Island Beach State Park (-74°05’48.66W 39°48’40.00N). Image of closure boundary.