RED BANK, NJ:  You didn’t think a turtle could be cute?  Then you’ve never met Stella, a northern diamondback terrapin turtle.

A partner of Clean Ocean Action (COA), Rally for the Navesink, offered a presentation last Thursday at the Red Bank Library to talk about the Terrapin Turtles. 

Alison McCarthy, Coastal Watershed Protection Coordinator for COA, introduced Michael Haughwout, Science Teacher at Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School who manages Project Terrapin.

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Project Terrapin has been at RFH for three years and was established almost twenty years ago in the Barnegat Bay area. 

Getting their name from the diamondback like pattern that covers their carapace, which he explained, “It’s actually not a shell.  It’s two parts; the carapace and the plastron which is the belly.”

Haughwout told how the turtle was almost wiped out to extinction by the demand for turtle soup.  He said that, “They taste absolutely horrible.  They taste like mud.  They were cooked with cooking wine, and what actually saved the terrapin was the Prohibition Act.”

Haughwout related that around April they start digging nests.  They lay their eggs about 15 – 20 feet from the shore line, burying them one to two feet deep.  In the Navesink River area this is very difficult because of all the bulkheads on the riverfront properties.

Incubation is around 60 – 90 days and a female will lay anywhere from four to twenty eggs, but on average, only one in one hundred make it due to predation and flooded or dried out nests.  “Unfortunately, we had a female struck and killed by a boat over the summer.  We brought her to Red Bank Veterinary hospital where they extracted the eggs.  We nested the eggs, so hopefully in the next few days they will pop up, and we’ll return them where mom wanted them to be.:

Their solution to the lack of nesting areas has been to build turtle gardens.  These are artificial nesting sites built with mounds of a sand blend that are trucked into an area where the turtles are trying to come up but there’s no beach. 

Two turtle gardens were built down in Long Beach Island, with Haughwout explaining, “They’re built at a certain height above the high tide line and it actually attracts them to the areas.  Our first year we had two or three nests, and this past summer we counted almost twenty.”

Locally, “We noticed that they are hanging around Barley Point in Rumson and it’sa  turtle haven and we want to do a lot more research in that area”, said Haughwout.  Project Terrapin has plans to meet with the representative to inform them about the turtles in the near future, when the turtles begin to nest.

To see the PowerPoint overview of Project Terrapin, click HEREpdf.

Scott Chernoff, Environmental Specialist, NJDEP Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring, provided a scientific overview of the Navesink River waters and tributaries that flow into in the river. 

The Navesink River went from a restricted water quality to a prohibitive classification back in 2016, which disallowed the harvesting and selling of shellfish. 

Chernoff provided scientific data captured in and around McClees Creek in Middletown after a July 31st and August 7th rain storm.  During multiple sampling and analysis, they found a broken sewer line at a pump station on Sleepy Hollow Road that was quickly repaired. 

Much of the fecal coliform comes from the numerous horse farms in the area and water samples are taken from a number of stations about ten times a year.

“What we’re looking at, is how has the river changed since the down grade?  There has been a lot of improvement, but we’re looking at the areas where there has not been much improvement, and going back to track where this pollution is coming from,” said Chernoff.

On the carousel for the July and August data pictures you’ll note the measurement for “ARA” which is the measurement for Antibiotic Resistant Assays and click HERE for detailed information.

Mark your smartphone calendars!  Clean Ocean Action will be holding their annual Beach Sweeps on Saturday, October 26th.

Volunteers of all ages are needed at over 60 locations.

Last year, over 454,365 pieces of debris was collected by 10,148 volunteers.

Make a difference for clean water and the environment!

To register, click HERE

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