North American Osprey, file photo above by J.C. 

HAZLET, NJ — Since the ban of the pesticide DDT in 1972, the osprey population has been resurging at the Jersey Shore. Now the litter piling up in their nests can jeopardize their survival rate. 

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Local organizations and companies are taking action to establish a safe and clean space for these birds to live. Last week, Hazlet’s International Flavors and Fragrances Inc. (IFF) removed debris from an osprey nest next to Natco Park.

TAPinto spoke with Hazlet Clean Communities’ Coordinator, Ron Dente, who helped make it happen.

Dente, who is also a board member at the nonprofit Save Coastal Wildlife, has been doing cleanups for fifteen years. A longtime Hazlet resident, he is a strong believer in climate change.

“We have to keep everything clean and live with our environment, not destroy it,” Dente said.

He believes everyone should do their part in combating climate change- and that’s what led him to reach out to IFF several years ago. Since then, Dente said, "IFF has taken on the Adopt-A-Highway Litter Program, installed solar panels in their building and have helped with cleanups."

Cleaning is just part of the work- local organizations also build platforms for ospreys to live in. Joseph Reynolds, the president at Save Coastal Wildlife, said, "Ospreys prefer to live in dead trees so they can keep an eye out for predators. Due to overdevelopment, there are not many dead trees for ospreys to make a home out of."

That’s where nonprofits like Save Coastal Wildlife come in. The volunteers build nesting platforms out of pressure-treated wood. Ospreys travel to the tropics during winter and come back to the East Coast in the spring. Reynolds said they return to the same nest every year.

“That’s why keeping their nests clean is especially important, because it’s their home for a long time,” Reynolds said. “It’s where they raise their family.”

Ospreys pick up branches to build their nests, but oftentimes these branches carry trash. Reynolds said strong winds also blow a lot of litter from beaches into ospreys’ homes. He said he has seen plastic in every single one. Fishing lines and ropes are also common.

Dente said the debris is especially dangerous for osprey babies, who are more likely to get entangled. The rope wraps around their neck and legs, strangling and hanging them. The babies either get seriously injured or die.

On Nov. 4, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that bans restaurants from using single-use plastic and paper bags, effective in May 2022. Dente believes this is a critical step toward creating a cleaner planet.

“Once the bags are gone, what’s it going to take- two months before people adjust to not having these bags and bringing their own?” Dente said. “But the reward will be unbelievable.”

The single-use plastic ban is revolutionary, but that’s not where climate change advocacy ends.

“The osprey population is increasing, but there’s still more work to be done,” Reynolds said.