RED BANK, NJ – Alison McCarthy, Coastal Watershed Protection Coordinator with Clean Ocean Action, opened the Rally for the Navesink meeting last Thursday, May 30th, at Bingham Hall in Rumson, by introducing Bill Heddendorf, Environmental Specialist, NJDEP Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring.

Heddendorf provided an update on the water monitoring situation pointing out in a PowerPoint presentation an area in the Navesink River that went from a restricted water quality to a prohibitive classification back in 2016.  He explained that this designation disallowed the harvesting and selling of shellfish.  Latest water quality analysis found that contaminants included canine fecal matter, and “that they found two different dens with over sixteen foxes.”   

Regarding the fish kills, “Anybody that’s been down the Navesink River has seen a lot of dead bunker especially in March.  A report came out that it was predatory species chasing the bunker into an area and they suffocated themselves,” said Heddendorf.  He rejected this theory, explaining at that time of year there’s no bluefish or stripers.  He opined that on a particular day, “There was a large rain storm, it got sunny, and it was like 80 degrees.  Nutrients floated to the surface, and that is a perfect cocktail for an algae bloom.” 

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Explaining that the temperature then dropped off 30 degrees the next day, the algae started to die off.  When the algae starts to die off, “It decomposes and takes up all the oxygen in the water, and that caused the large fish kill.”  

Heddendorf  discussed that there are eight continuous monitoring buoys throughout the Navesink River and the Raritan and Barnegat Bays.  These buoys test for oxygen, chlorophyll, salinity, temperature with the test results in near real time (within 15 minutes).

Clinging jellyfish, about the size of a dime, was Heddendorfs next subject, “They typically cling to the eel grass and luckily, they don’t like sandy bottoms where people swim.  They have a serious punch and leave you in the hospital, and the only treatment is a morphine drip because the pain is so horrendous,” said Heddendorf.  They first showed up in 2016, but none have been found in the Navesink River and none yet in the Shrewsbury River.

Next up was Dave Grant, Conservation Director, Shark River Institute, who spoke about the Horseshoe crab population, discussing their habitat and showing pictures of hatchlings.  Pointing out the bulkhead in Victory Park, Rumson, is very detrimental to spawning, because, “There was some years I counted eighty nests, but when a (Nor’easter) storm occurs, the bulkhead (doesn’t allow) them to get up to the upper edge to lay their eggs.”

What was very interesting is the medical application of Horseshoe crab blood.

To get very technical, horseshoe crabs use hemocyanin (a protein), to carry oxygen through their blood. Because of the copper present in hemocyanin, their blood is blue.  The horseshoe blood is centrifuged down, and turned into a powder. 

Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers test their products for the presence of endotoxins, i.e., bacterial substances that can cause fevers and even be fatal to humans.  “Anything that goes into the human body, is first tested in Horseshoe crab blood,” said Gibson.

To see quick video of Horseshoe crab larva (recent hatchings, without tails), click HERE.

To see quick video of older Horseshoe crab hatchings that have shed their tail, click HERE.

Wrapping up the meeting was Tom Gibson, New Jersey Friends of Clearwater, who told about their Environmental Sail Program, and whose mission is, “to build awareness of our environment, the effects of pollution on it, and humans' ability to cause it and to cure it,” according to their website.

Best of all?

Ever see that sailboat with the two red sails running up and down the river?

Well, it’s their sailing vessel, Pete's Banjo, a 26-ffot Tuckerton Sailing Garvey.  It is a replica of a design used in the 17th century for oyster and clam gathering work in the shallow waters of the Tuckerton Bay.

“Anybody who shows up at the dock at Bodman Place, Oyster Point Marina, where we keep the boat on Tuesdays at 6:00pm, will get a free boat ride that evening,” said Gibson.

Lastly, there will be a "Rally for the Rivers Eco-Fest" this Saturday, June 8th, 9:00am - 12:30pm, Victory Park, in Rumson.

Want to get involved? 

Of course you do!  Click HERE.

Rally for the Navesink is just one of an alliance of groups coordinated by Clean Ocean Action.  The coalition was formed in 2016 in response to a downgrade of over 500 acres of shell fishing area due to pollution that included urban and agricultural stormwater runoff and failing infrastructure.

For more information on Rally for the Navesink, including scientific reports, click HERE.

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