Reddish Dye Pumped Into Delaware Bay for Oyster Bed Study

Passersby may notice a short-term change in the appearance of the Delaware Bay in certain areas right off the coast of New Jersey.

If the Delaware Bay looks slightly discolored over the next day or two, it is not an unwanted red tide or a Saint Patrick's Day-type spinoff.

It has to do with oysters, notably the study of how to improve their health in the once very futile ground, or beds, in the bay.

Once home to a thriving industry that relied on the shellfish — there are communities called Shellpile and Bivalve — the harvesting waters have now become ground zero in efforts of revitalization.


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"The oysters in the Delaware Bay are a complicated and sad story in a sense," said Lawrence Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. "They have been dealing with a couple of issues over the years. It's not the water quality, but with two particular types of diseases affecting the oysters. There has been a lot of research in developing resistant strains of oysters."

Another part of the recovery process is finding underwater beds for the oysters to live.

That's where the dye comes into play. 

"The goal of the dye study is to help determine if portions of the upper Delaware Bay, where oyster beds are located, can be upgraded," the DEP said in a press release. "The study will further help the DEP implement management strategies to enhance protection of oysters."

Passersby may notice the discoloration of the bay water, but the dye will disperse.

The DEP also said the dye "used in the study is not harmful to people or the environment and is used commonly in water-quality and dispersion tests."

For more information, here is a link to the DEP page on the oyster bed study.

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