The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers and State Park Police will be joined by officers from the Seaside Park, Barnegat, Beach Haven, Harvey Cedars, Surf City, Stafford, Toms River and Lavallette police departments in the effort, state officials said in an announcement of the sweeps on Wednesday.
The officers will patrol the bay throughout the summer and distribute green boating literature during informal stops on Barnegat Bay. Boaters also will get maps showing the 16 most ecologically sensitive areas of the 660-square-mile watershed – areas officials say are deserving of special care.
The sweeps may also result in citations for violation of boater laws and egregious natural resource violations.
“The goal of these sweeps is to educate Barnegat Bay boaters on how they can better protect this precious natural resource,’’ DEP Commissioner Bon Martin said in a statement. “Our enforcement staff will employ these sweeps to remind boaters and watercraft enthusiasts of important guidelines they should follow that will help protect the environmental integrity of the bay, while not interfering with their enjoyment of the bay’’
The sweeps are being performed as part of Gov. Chris Christie's plan to improve the bay watershed, specifically, the goal of reducing watercraft impacts. As part of the plan, the 16 ecologically sensitive areas were mapped out, mainly based on the extent to which watercraft can damage sensitive submerged vegetation that can disrupt fish and displace nesting shorebirds.
Boaters can help keep the bay healthy by observing several points, officials have said, including:
- Stay out of restricted areas set aside for wildlife. Do not harass nesting birds and other animals.
- Buoy mooring chains and lines to prevent them from scraping on the bay bottom and harming submerged aquatic vegetation and animals.
- Use pump-out boats and facilities. Do not discharge wastewater holding tanks into open water.
- Maintain 100-foot distance (about the length of six cars) from natural shorelines, bay islands, sensitive ecological areas, and use marked navigational channels for travel.
- Minimize wakes in all shallow areas to help reduce erosion and harm to aquatic plants and animals.
- Appreciate wildlife from a distance.
- Help reduce air pollution by cutting the engine and not idling in open water.
- Keep trash, recyclables, hooks and lures in secure containers and dispose of them properly on land. Recycle used monofilament fishing lines instead of throwing them away.
- Avoid giving invasive aquatic plants and animals a ride. Thoroughly clean boats, personal watercraft and equipment when transferring them from one water body to another.