Police officers from Brick and Berkeley townships, as well as Mantoloking police, will join county and state law enforcement officers in Barnegat Bay-wide education and compliance sweeps this summer.
Police officers from the local agencies' marine units, as well as the Ocean County Sheriff's Department marine unit, Ocean County Prosecutor's Office and state police, will conduct informal stops on the water aimed at educating boaters on low-impact boating measures that can help protect the environment.
The sweeps are being organized by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
"We are not seeking to limit boating on the bay, but want to ensure it will be healthy, clean and beautiful for future boaters," said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, in a statement. "Following green boating practices will enhance everyone's enjoyment of the bay and make it a safer place."
Police officers will be armed with green boating literature that will be distributed during the informal stops, officials said. Boaters will also receive maps showing the 16 most ecologically sensitive areas of the 660-square-mile bay watershed - areas the state considers deserving of special care.
Studies conducted by the DEP led to the identification of the 16 sensitive areas, which experts say can be harmed by the wakes of high-speed boats and personal watercraft. The wakes can damage submerged aquatic vegetation, such as eel grass, and can disrupt aquatic habitats and nesting shorebirds, particularly in shallower tidal waters where recreational activities are common, a statement from the DEP said.
"The DEP and law enforcement form a natural partnership," said Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford, also in a statement. "Our efforts to create a visible police presence on the waters will not only remind boaters to engage in safe boating activities, but will also remind all of our obligations to protect the quality of our great natural resource, the Barnegat Bay."
State officials provided a number of recommendations to boaters ahead of the sweeps. They include:
- Stay out of restricted areas set aside for wildlife. Do not harass nesting birds and 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-foot distance (about the length of six cars) 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 water body to another.