Clams A Favorite Food For Stingrays In the Barnegat Bay
There’s already been several stingray and shark sightings throughout the area in Loch Harbor , Spring Lake, and Lavallette. Experts say the sea creatures return to the waters annual to feed—specifically baby clams, which the group responsible for planting the clams are very happy about.
Those clams are very important for the group ReClam Barnegat Bay which plants the bivalves in order to clean up the bay and rejuvenate the estuary. Clammer Charlie Brandt says clams tend to be at the bottom of the aquatic food chain, with everyone from starfish to stingrays digging into the mollusks.
“One baby blue crab could eat eight to nine hundred baby clams a day if they were permitted to do that.” Says Brandt
Brandt says virtually every creature in the bay eats the cams, which is why they plant them also.
“They’re like a canary in a coal mine so when we raise them at that point these are the things that keep Barnegat Bay healthy.”
The stingrays however a natural part of the ecosystem as well, which according to Brandt, occurs regularly but it seems this is the first time people are really noticing it.
“What they do is they flap their wings on the ground, they dig a hole in the sand and the baby clams pop up, and they have very strong jaws and teeth and they crack the clams open and eat them.”
He says people have nothing to worry about because the stingrays, skates, and even sharks who come into the Bay, are regular inhabitants.
“You know they come to the area because there are clams here or things that they feed on. So it’s not like the invasion of the jellyfish, which are a totally different story which come here and don’t have a natural enemy.”
Brandt says the stingrays are population is also getting noticed because fisherman have been ignoring them to bring home to the dinner table.
ReClam the Bay raise about a million clams and three hundred thousand oysters to put back into the Bay, but Brandt says they are aware a large portion of that will be food for various creatures int eh water. He notes much of the conservation is achieved when people understand the purpose of the mollusks and take precautions at home to protect the bay as well.
“[The clams] are important so these rays do come into the Bay so that these rays do have something to eat, so that the crabs do have something to eat, because that’s where the health of the Bay comes from.”