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new jersey department of environmental protection  


Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 33

Additional  Natural and Ecological Integrity  Indicators

30 - Freshwater Wetlands

31 - Nesting Water Birds

32 - River Health

Marine Water Quality

Percent of shellfish habitat safe for harvesting: Increasing

  Things to think about 

New Jersey is one of only five states that have been able to increase their number of harvestable estuarine acres since 1990.

Suburban and urban runoff is one of the biggest remaining uncontrolled pollution sources contributing to harvest limitations.


Shellfish are a very sensitive indicator of pollution because they eat by filtering whatever is floating in the coastal waters where they live. As a result, our ability to eat shellfish - or our need to declare them off limits – is an important indicator of water quality and ecosystem health. As the chart above shows, New Jersey has been successful in upgrading coastal water quality and opening up more areas for shellfish harvesting. In each of the past twelve years, we have been able to open up more acres of shellfish for harvest.


As a coastal state, marine resources are important to New Jersey’s economy. We have a vibrant commercial fishing industry, of which shellfish are a part. The commercial and sport fishing industries rely on clean water just as much as the shellfish industry. Water quality and fresh shellfish are important to tourism, which is the second largest industry in the state.


Maintaining marine water quality and habitat is essential to protecting the diversity of life in the ocean. As bottom dwellers and filter feeders, shellfish are good indicator species for the quality of the water and the health of the marine ecosystem. Moreover, clean coastal waters reduce public health problems when we eat fish - and when we swim and play in this water.


Clean beaches and water provide safe opportunities for recreation and tourism in our coastal communities. Trips to the shore, and the opportunity to eat fresh seafood, are timeless leisure activities for many of us. Maintaining them preserves an important part of our heritage.

Knowledge Gaps

In general, our information concerning the health of marine ecosystems is poor. We still know little about ocean ecosystems and our many effects on them. We need a greater understanding of how pollutants enter our coastal waters, particularly from non-point sources such as stormwater runoff. We also need scientific study of how these substances affect marine ecosystems.

Data Source: NJ Department of Environmental Protection

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: May 1, 2007

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